Environment Impact Assessment

Environment Impact Assessment in Europe

Working Party on the Environment

The working party’s main responsibility is negotiating issues related to the environment in the EU. The group deals with a broad range of issues including, air pollution, chemicals, waste, resource efficiency, natural resources, biodiversity, water and the marine environment.

More details about Working Party on the Environment

Enviromental Assessment

To ensure that the planning system protects and enhances Europe’s environment, we must understand the impact that plans, programmes and projects may have on it. This means assessing the potential effects that planning policies and development projects may have and disseminating this to a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public.

Only once we have the full picture of the effects of policies, and alternatives to them, can Europe delivers a planning system that makes a positive contribution to the regions of Europe unique natural and built environment.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

In some European jurisdictions, public bodies and some private companies operating in a public character are required to assess, consult and monitor the likely impacts of their plans, programmes and strategies on the environment. This process is known as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

This is a key component of sustainable development, establishing important methods for protecting the environment and extending opportunities for public participation in decision making. SEA achieves this by:

  • Systematically assessing and monitoring the significant environmental effects of public sector strategies, plans and programmes
  • Ensuring that expertise and views are sought at various points in the process, including the public
  • Requiring a public statement as to how opinions have been taken into account.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a means of drawing together, in a systematic way, an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects arising from a proposed development.

Directive 2014/52/EU on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be transposed into domestic legislation no later than 16 May 2017.

Developments falling within a description in Schedule 1 to the 2011 EIA Regulations always require EIA. Development of a type listed in Schedule 2 to the 2011 EIA Regulations will require EIA if it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment, by virtue of factors such as its size, nature or location.

The requirement for EIA comes from European Directive 2011/92/EU.

In Scotland, the EIA Directive has been brought into Scottish law through a number of Scottish Statutory Instruments relevant to individual consenting regimes. These pages relate to the Town and Country Planning EIA regime – information on other Scottish EIA regimes is available.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2014/52/EU

The European Commission set out changes to the 2011 ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ (EIA) Directive through Directive 2014/52/EU (EIA Directive). This amends the current EIA Directive 2011/92/EU; however the aims remain the same; to provide a high level of protection of the environment and to draw together, in a systematic way, an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects arising from a proposed development.

EIA aims to ensure that the likely significant environmental effects of a development proposal are properly understood before any development consent is granted.

EIA therefore provides a means of assessing the likely significant environmental effects of a proposal, and the potential for avoiding, reducing, or offsetting any significant adverse impacts on the environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2014/52/EU amendments

The newly amended Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2014/52/EU entered into force on May 15, 2014. Member States had until May 16, 2017 at the latest to apply the new rules.

The newly amended Directive follows a review by the European Commission, which announced its proposals for change in 2012. To ensure that Scottish interests were fully represented the Scottish Government hosted 4 seminars with interested parties between January to March 2013. Outputs from those seminars were used to inform our engagement with UK and European partners on the Directive proposals.

EIA Directive Proposals

On June 20, 2012 the Scottish Government hosted a discussion on environmental assessment and energy consenting as part of EU Sustainable Energy Week events in Scotland House.

Description of Environment

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes environment in the following terms: [1] Although controversy dogs the Commission’s involvement in other spheres, public support for EU involvement in environmental protection is strong (see more in this European encyclopedia). Governments, too, have been content to devolve some of their responsibilities in this area to the Community, which is well placed to organise European co-operation over such issues as emission controls. Anything approaching a coherent EU policy is, however, of recent origin. The original Treaty of Romewas silent on the subject and it was not until the European Council of 1972 that the Community asserted its interest, backed (arguably beyond what was legally justifiable) by the Court of Justice.

The 1986 Single European Act set out three priorities: improving the quality of the environment; health protection; and the conservation of natural resources. Since then, the Commission has issued Directives on matters ranging from atmospheric pollution to water quality and has set up the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen to liaise with national governments and collect scientific research. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam required the Community to incorporate the protection of the environment into all relevant legislation.

Despite its popular appeal, environmentalism is full of pitfalls. There is a natural conflict between stringent regulation and the free market. The ‘green’ member states tend to push for a high level of protection, countering the threat to their competitiveness by urging the Commission to impose the same standards on the less environmentally conscious countries. By a similar line of reasoning, at the Kyoto Summit of 1997 the EU delegation pointed out that unilateral reductions in power station or vehicle emissions would put Europe at a disadvantage unless matched by US, Japanese and developing country reductions. Moreover, much of the scientific evidence is debatable (see more in this European encyclopedia). Doubts remain, for example, over the explanation of global warming, the phenomenon widely believed to threaten the planet and therefore to justify massive preventive expenditure.

Another battleground is the cost-effectiveness of legislation drafted by bureaucrats without regard to local conditions. The struggle between allegedly offending businesses and enforcement agencies – the latter armed with draconian powers to penalise infringements of sometimes inappropriate regulations – appears set to be a recurrent EU theme in the 21st century, with the warring parties citing uncertain scientific hypotheses and the rival claims of health and employment. Yet another major theme will be the costly clean-up of the pollution caused by industry in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe (see more in this European encyclopedia). A rectification programme is a precondition for accession to the EU, but few outsiders understand the scale of the devastation which has been perpetrated in these countries over the last 50 years.


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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