New EIA method incorporates ecosystems services

21st November 2011


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  • Construction ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Stakeholder engagement

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IEMA

The World Resources Institute (WRI) has outlined a new approach to environmental impact assessment to help practitioners effectively account for ecosystems services.

In the first of two papers explaining its concept of “ecosystem services review for impact assessment”, the WRI introduces a new framework designed to help practitioners link ecosystems services to the project being assessed.

Building on the method used in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the WRI’s guidance is based on recognising the relationships between the project, human wellbeing and the drivers of ecosystem change, and provides advice on how to integrate those separately assessed elements into EIA as well as on how to engage stakeholders.

The creation of the WRI’s framework follows the International Finance Corporation’s announcement that it will require projects applying for funding to “maintain the benefits from ecosystem services” from 1 January 2012.

A WRI survey of EIA practitioners around the world, found that 85% of the respondent do not believe existing guidance provides the level of support they need to integrate ecosystems services into their EIA.

The first paper, “An introduction and guide to scoping”, outlines the WRI’s method and how to apply it during the scoping stage. It will be followed by a second paper early next year that will describe implementing the framework during impact analysis and mitigation elements of the process.

“Addressing ecosystem services in EIA can improve the economic, social and ecological outcomes of development projects,” said Florence Landsberg, research associate on the WRI’s people and ecosystems programme and co-author of the papers. “However, existing EIA practices usually assess impacts on biophysical and socio-economic topics separately, and don’t promote integrated impact assessment.

“The ESR for IA complements current EIA practices by providing the vision and detailed instructions for a collaborative process between environmental and social practitioners.”

Jo Treweek an environmental consultant and co-author of the WRI papers said they will help practitioners in the field.

“Dealing with ecosystem services in impact assessment is new to many and can seem a daunting task,” she said. “The review toolkit helps practitioners to identify and prioritise issues to focus on, making the task seem more tractable.”

The WRI will be working with selected projects to apply the framework between January and September 2012, before finalising the guidance into a single document later next year. To download the first paper and for details on how to provide your feedback on the framework visit the WRI website.


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