The European Commission has published Guidance on Integrating Climate Change and Biodiversity into Environmental Impact Assessment, which aims to improve the way that public authorities and practitioners include climate change and biodiversity in environmental impact assessments across the EU.

The Guidance is split into four sections. Section one provides an introduction whereby highlighting its purpose, audience and overview of its contents. Sections two and three explain the importance of climate change and biodiversity in EIA, and section four provides advice on how to integrate climate change and biodiversity into the EIA process.

The guidance applies to all project types that under the EIA Directive require screening and a full EIA. It is the first such EIA guidance to be issued by the Commission and will be revised when the draft Directive is adopted.

The guidance addresses the specific issues and challenges that climate change and biodiversity can bring and it is designed to encourage its users about how important climate change and biodiversity issues are likely to be for their project and EIA.

Including climate change and biodiversity at this stage will help achieve climate and biodiversity objectives, comply with legislation, increase the projects resilience to climate change, improve project reputation, and, manage conflicts between biodiversity, climate change and other issues.

Identifying key issues early will ensure recognition by all concerned and allow for them to be followed up throughout the whole EIA process. In addition, involving the relevant authorities and stakeholders early will improve compliance with the EIA directive.

Within the document it states that there are four steps to ensure inclusion of climate change and biodiversity within EIA which are highlighted below:

  1. Incorporation into the EIA process by:
    1. a. building them into the early stages of screening and scoping the environmental statement; and
    2. b. tailoring how they are incorporated in the specific context of the project.
  2. Identification of the particular issues in the EIA by:
    1. a. bringing together relevant stakeholders who need to be part of biodiversity/ecosystems-related and climate change-related decision-making; and
    2. b. understanding how both interact with other issues to be assessed in the EIA, as well as with each other.
  3. Ensure they are addressed in the EIA over a long timescale, the potential of projects to cause cumulative effects and apply the precautionary principle to recommendations.
  4. Ensure from the start of the EIA process that negative or extreme effects are fully assessed and, where possible, avoided by mitigation or compensation.

The key practical point for developers is to note that when undertaking EIA, they must take into account this new guidance and ensure climate change and biodiversity is considered early on when preparing their scheme.