IEMA's Policy and Engagement Lead for Impact Assessment, Rufus Howard discusses the launch of the IEMA GHG Emissions Guidance, which will help practitioners understand and record the GHG implications of developments, and through iterative design and the application of the mitigation hierarchy, lead to reduced GHG emissions from major developments.

As set out in the IPPC’s latest report published today, on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, the evidence is clear on how accelerating planetary heating is compounding risks and making it harder to achieve the globally agreed "Sustainable Development Goals" by the 2030 deadline. This once again reinforces why reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an urgent priority globally and within the UK. Within the field of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) there is a requirement to assess the impact of the project on climate (for example the nature and magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions) and the vulnerability of the project to climate change

The aim of this guidance is to assist GHG practitioners with addressing GHG emissions assessment, mitigation, and reporting in statutory and non-statutory EIA. It is a revision of the 2017 IEMA guidance on Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Evaluating their Significance. It complements IEMA’s latest guide on Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation published in 2020 and builds on the Climate Change Mitigation and EIA overarching principles.

The requirement to consider this topic has resulted from the 2014 amendment to the EIA Directive (2014/52/EU), as transposed into UK and devolved legislation through instruments such as the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 and the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017.

A lot has changed since 2017. Climate change has moved up the national and international agenda with local authorities across the UK declaring a climate change emergency. The UK’s legally binding Climate Change Act 2008 was amended in 20197 in response to the Paris Agreement, setting a new and challenging target to reduce UK GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050, accounting for residual emissions which are offset. Devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have also set net-zero targets. In December 2020, the UK Government’s independent advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), set the sixth carbon budget at 965 million tCO2e from 2033 to 2037, which has since been enshrined into law. There is a distinct requirement for deeper cuts in emissions across all sectors of the economy to meet the net-zero target according to the CCC.

For planners, developers, regulators and impact assessment professionals working with, or commissioning, GHG impact assessment, this publication provides updated and improved guidance, developed by leading practitioners from the past 5 years of practice on complex projects. The guidance builds on the previous IEMA guidance and reinforces the need to use competent experts for specialist topics such as GHG assessment.

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Rufus Howard

Policy and Engagement Lead, IEMA

Dr Howard is the policy and engagement lead for Impact Assessment at IEMA and a leading professional in EIA, with two decades of international experience across renewable energy and major infrastructure.