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Identifying Rollbacks in EIA: Examining threats to Environmental Impact Assessment as a result of fiscal stimulus packages
The blog is a team discussion place where you can post and discuss information relevant to your team.
This public discussion has been started to look at different countries proposed and implemented stimulus bills/packages and the impact on access rights specifically related to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) as a procedural step in maintaining standards for environmental management.
Some form of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and accompanying procedures for information disclosure, public participation and judicial or administrative review, have become widely adopted as part of the project and/or policy review process in most countries. Nevertheless, EIAs are often criticized – particularly by project proponents – as costly and time consuming. Given the need for speed in current fiscal stimulus packages, some individuals and agencies have proposed waiving or abbreviating existing participation and consultation requirements within EIAs.
The US government introduced EIAs as an “action-forcing mechanism” to identify, assess, and mitigate environmental and human impacts of government actions in the United States. Since then, EIAs have spread to well over 100 countries, and have been enshrined in Principle 17 of the Rio Declaration, gaining worldwide legitimacy as a critical element of environmental management. EIAs have grown in both strength and scope and are now one of the premiere tools in environmental management in most countries.
Admittedly, EIAs, especially in many developing countries, are often not user-friendly, are inaccessible, scarcely propose feasible alternatives, fail to designate major impacts as “significant,” or offer dubious justifications for selection of the final action. Despite the often already-weak status of many EIAs, many project proponents still see the procedure as a major delay and an inconvenience.
Within the context of the current financial crisis, opportunistic EIA detractors may use fiscal stimulus as a means to erode evolving EIA processes. In order to stimulate their economy, many countries will opt to use fiscal spending policies to boost their economy. Received wisdom suggests that the speed of spending of fiscal stimulus package largely determines its outcome. Emergency spending presents an opportunity for opponents of EIA processes to make major cuts in regulatory scope, institutional mandates, and procedural aspects of the process. Some governments that have proposed to change or suspend EIA laws in order to spend the money more quickly include, Canada and China; others are predicted to have a spike in illegal EIA procedures (ex. China again); while still others may do so through loopholes in the law. Some have managed to put safeguards for EIA in the stimulus packages (hopefully in the US).
Specifically, recent proposals have sought to alter :
- Scope of legal regulation:
- level of government of the implementing agency;
- identification of projects needing EIA.
2. Institutional aspects
- authorized agencies and their respective powers and functions.
3. Procedural aspects
- communication procedures and time tables;
- reporting requirements;
- consideration of alternatives and mitigations;
- public participation;
- inter-agency review;
- justifications for decision-making;
Safeguards established to protect environmental and human impacts, such as EIA, do not run counter to the success of fiscal stimulus, and must be maintained in order to protect valuable assets and rights communities.
Please, tell us if your government is receiving or spending a large fiscal stimulus package, and is proposing that there are cuts in EIA procedures (or if they have successfully defended them).
If so, please send links to newspaper articles, research you have written (even if it’s not in English), and work of your colleagues.
Attached you will find an informal survey of results from TAI partner responses on EIA laws in their respective countries.
|EIA Rollback chart.doc||63.5 KB|