16 Apr

New EU EIA directive will bring mandatory assessment of alternatives

eplogo_printWe welcome the latest amendments approved  by the EU Council for the environmental impact assessment directive (EIA). It brings it up to date with latest trends and needs of the Public. The final adoption of the legislation by the Council follows an agreement reached at first reading with the European Parliament which voted at its plenary session of 12 March 2014.

 What is an  EIA?

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) entails the systematic collection and analysis of information about the environmental effects of a proposed project by the developer. It enables the competent authority to decide if and how the project should be carried out and, more importantly, gives the public a chance to evaluate and comment on the Environmental impacts  and whether there are reasonable alternatives to what is proposed. The directive is aimed at ensuring a high level of protection of the environment and human health through the establishment of common minimum requirements for the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The EIA directive  began life 25 years ago, and so needs to be continuously adapted to reflect the experience gained, changes in EU legislation and policy, and European Court of Justice case law outcomes.

 What’s changed?

The amendments applied will  adapt the current directive to changes that have taken place in policy, legal and technical contexts over the recent past.

We’re delighted to note that

  • the quality of the environmental impact assessments procedure itself  has been strengthened. It is now more in tune with the principles of smart regulation.
  • the new directive is now more consistent with other EU legislation and current EU policies
  • the amended directive shares synergies with strategies and policies developed by member states in areas of national competence.
  • one of the new elements incorporated into the EIA procedure is a mandatory assessment of reasonable alternatives studied by the developer and
  • the directive now  has a  broader scope, as the EIA will cover new issues, and more detailed provisions on screening.
  • it adds provisions for ensuring a high level of protection of the marine environment
  •  it will allow the public to access environmental  information more easily and effectively.
  • it considers the vulnerability (exposure and resilience) to major accidents and/or disasters by the projects

We hope the amendments will make the EIA experience a shorter more effective and cheaper process which reveals significant information that expedites the decision making process.

When is it effective ?

That’s a tricky question because it depends on National Governments to incorporate into national law. As we have seen in Ireland with the Aarhus and Stockholm Conventions this is not quick. lets hope that we don’t see fines coming our way for lateness of action. So while the directive will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU, (i.e. mid May) the member states will have three years to incorporate it into national legislation. So let’s hope that long before April 2017 we will be better protected.

The timeline to EIA modifications.

Adopted 25 years ago, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (known as the EIA Directive) needs to be adapted to reflect the experience gained as well as changes in EU legislation and policy, and European Court of Justice case law.

In July 2009, the Commission published a report on the application and effectiveness of the EIA Directive(COM(2009)378). The report outlined the strengths of the EIA Directive, highlighted the main areas where improvements were  needed and provided recommendations, where relevant.

In June 2010, the Commission launched a wide public consultation. The consultation covers a broad variety of issues . More information on the public consultation can be found under the following webpage.

The phase of public consultation was concluded by a Conference for the 25th anniversary of the EIA Directive. The findings of the public consultation and the conclusions of the Conference have fed into the Commission’s review process of the EIA Directive.

The Commission proposal

As a result of the review process, on 26 October 2012 the Commission adopted a proposal for a new Directive that would amend the current EIA Directive.

The details : On 14th April 2014, the Council adopted a directive amending directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (PE-COS 15/14, 7927/14 ADD 1).

Read the full text of the EIA modifications adopted.

Read the current EIA transposition into Irish law reference.

09 Apr

Go Circular or get left behind

icon-company-bikeWe are encouraged by the recent advice given by  WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin. Well, it  was more of a warning than advice in fact.

She was addressing the attendees at Sustainability Live  last week (1-3rd April). On that smog filled day in Bermingham Goodwin predicted that  UK companies who embrace the circular economy model will outperform their competitors and grab substantial economic gains in the process.

Our current  “throwaway linear economic model”  will become a millstone around our necks if we do not quickly adopt a circular approach. Technology moves on and those firms adopting best practice will ‘eat the lunch’ of those still mired  in linear mode.

The WRAP boss pointed out some insightful statistics to quantify the gains on the circular table for us all.

Drawing on WRAP’s work she said that

  • there was scope for 10,000 new jobs to be created in the recycling sector alone by 2020 with a circular approach.
  • businesses could reduce their costs by more than £50bn a year.

We know there is growing  talk about the circular economy but the danger lies in not following up on this talk with real action. If the ‘talking shop’ mode continues there is a real danger that a  move to a circular economy will lose momentum and falter.

The challenge is for us all to start acting on a micro level and not wait for macro initiatives to kick in from slow acting Governments. It’s time to ‘get on your bike’ , adapt to a changing world or fall out of the race.

With an extra 3 Billion members of the global middle classes competing for material resources by 2050, there is no time to waste.