IEMA goes global on EIA

12th February 2014

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IEMA's Josh Fothergill describes his recent trip to Hong Kong to share developments in environmental impact assessment practice

I recently presented the keynote address at a conference in Hong Kong, alongside speakers from China, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, UK and the host country. Delegates included senior Hong Kong and Chinese government officials, in attendance to learn the latest regional and international developments in environmental impact assessment (EIA) with the intent of improving quality in their own systems.

I was invited because IEMA is being increasingly recognised for its role in enhancing the UK’s international reputation for high quality EIA. From launching the world’s first principles on EIA and climate change in Geneva in 2010, through presenting at the European commission’s 25th anniversary EIA conference, to winning a coveted international award for EIA in 2012, IEMA has been at the forefront of EIA developments.

My speech focused on IEMA’s systemic approach to advancing UK EIA practice. Following the presentation, IEMA agreed to develop a memorandum of understanding with the Hong Kong Institute of EIA, and to engage with officials in Beijing how to improve the quality of EIA practice in China.

So why does the UK government, particularly the communities and local government department, see EIA as a barrier? In this area the self-styled “greenest government” still holds to the false dichotomy of environment or growth. The communities department will shortly consult on plans to reduce the application of EIA in England, having previously attempted to scale back EU revisions to enhance the EIA Directive.

It’s not all bad though. The Scottish government regularly works with IEMA with a joint agenda of improving quality and performance. Alongside this, increasing numbers of developers only contract consultancies registered on IEMA’s EIA Quality Mark scheme. In 2014, developers will work with IEMA on an action plan for effective EIA. Despite Whitehall’s stance, IEMA and its members will continue to enhance UK, and increasingly, global EIA practice.


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