Growth in concern for the environment in regards to sustainability and management of developments has led to decision tools (Cashmore, 2004), such as environmental impact assessment (EIA) (Glasson, 2012).EIA is defined as the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made (IAIA, 1999). The core purpose of the EIA process is to provide decision-makers with the expected environmental consequences of a projects development, via an EIA report (Jay et al., 2007), and to avoid/mitigate against them (IAIA, 1999). EIA follow up should be considered a fundamental part of this process, as it is required to understand EIA outcomes (Morrison-Saunders & Arts, 2012), and to deliver on EIA objectives (Arts & Morrison-Saunders, 2004 34). However, the EIA theory is considered inadequately developed, with a focus on process and procedure, rather than purpose and outcomes (Cashmore, 2004).
EIA is a predominantly predictive process (Wood, 2000), concentrated on a future which is uncertain (Marshall et al., 2005 177). As the EIA process deals with an uncertain future, predictions of likely significant impacts have a high potential to be wrong (Duinker & Greig, 2007). Pre-decision EIA alone is not sufficient for rigorous planning, decision making and management of projects, as a result of uncertainties intrinsic to the future (Art et al., 2001 177). Follow up can deal with these uncertainties, rationalising the process (Marshall et al., 2005 177). The need for follow up will be paramount when uncertainty in pre-decision EIA requires supplementation (Marshall, 2005).
EIA is considered to have limited influence on development decisions and mitigation of environmental consequences is only met to a limited degree (Jay et al., 2007 298). Some developers consider EIA a necessary evil, while some ecologists believe EIA does not produce complete certainty about the environmental consequences of a project (Glasson, 2012). Therefore stricter requirements for project approval to improve the quality of decisions, formal mechanisms to ensure the implementation of follow up to strengthen the EIA system (Jay et al., 2007), and learning from experience to improve effectiveness (Chanchitpricha & Bond, 2013 68) are advised.
The EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) was implemented in 1985 to assess the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Since then it has been amended 3 times before being codified by Directive 2011/92/EU, which was amended most recently in 2014 by Directive 2014/52/EU (Europa, 2017a). Under Article (2) of the directive all projects likely to have significant effects on the environment require developmental consent and assessment (Directive 2014/52/EU). These projects are split into two categories in Article (4) of the directive (Directive 2014/52/EU) (Europa, 2017a).
• Annex I – Projects who require a mandatory EIA as their effect on the environment is deemed significant
• Annex II – Projects who may or may not need an EIA. This is decided by the screening procedure to identify effects of the project.
As mentioned in (Nielsen et al., 2005) & (Kornov(EIA outcomes) Screening gives developers the option to reduce their environmental impacts by adapting their projects before it is established that an EIA is required. This is an option many developers will go for given the cost efficiency of screening (Nielsen et al., 2005) and the extra expense of an EIA (Europa, 2015).
Habitats directive and birds directive
Other EU legislations, such as the Habitats Directive, along with the Birds Directive also have an effect on EIA systems (Europa, 2017c). Increases in rules and legislation, such as the implementation of Natura 2000 into Danish legislation, results in an increase in what is expected to protect nature (Christensen et al., 2012), and the number of projects undergoing some kind of impact assessment (Christensen & kørnøv, 2011). As any projects affecting Natura 2000 sites will have to be assessed (Europa, 2016).
A greater concern for nature has been reported in Danish EIA administrative guidelines since the implementation (Christensen & kørnøv, 2011). An impact assessment review of the EIA Directive in 2012 estimated that 50% of projects a year would require monitoring under other EU legislation (Europa, 2017c). This greater concern for nature may have been what led to the revised EIA directive in 2014, and the requirement of follow up for applicable projects.
EIA Directive (2014/52/EU)
The increase in concern for the environment and EU members states obligations to meet the EU Directives standards presumably led to the most recent amendment to the EIA Directive, in 2014 (Directive 2014/52/EU). Some improvements have been made to the EIA system with this amendment, particularly one which requires monitoring for projects that are identified to have significant effects on the environment. Proponents of these projects will be required to do what is necessary to avoid, prevent or reduce these effects (Europa, 2017b).
With this amendment to the EIA Directive it can be seen how the process is progressing to have greater concern for the environment by placing further regulations on developers. The requirement for monitoring of specific projects strengthens the EIA system, as the process will operate when needed, as the whole systematic process it was intended to be (Jay et al., 2007 ; Glasson, 2012).
However, further adjustments to the revised EIA directive in the areas of sharing of monitoring data to determine the effectiveness of EIA methodology and the sharing of lessons learned are needed for improvement of its implementation (Lonsdale et al., 2017).
Principles and process
The European commission produced eight basic principles to guide the EIA process (Europa, 2016). The international association for impact assessment (IAIA), expanded on these principles by adding some of their own for best practice EIA (IAIA, 1999). Certain best practice guiding principles such as purposive (achieve appropriate environmental protection & community well-being), rigorous (Use of “best practicable” methodologies & techniques), adaptive (Adjust process to realities & incorporate lessons learned), and systematic (Full examination on affected environment, proposed alternatives, their impacts, & monitoring of residual effects) are either bolstered by follow up processes (Morrison-Saunders & Arts, 2001 4), or cannot knowingly be achieved without it.
However, there is a gap between best practice EIA in the literature and its actual application (Morgan, 2012 11). Both the theory and practice of EIA is still evolving, the development of theory based on the IAIA best practice principles is encouraged to improve EIA effectiveness (Pope et al., 2013). This justifies the need for follow up, to aid in the development of the EIA process and improve its effectiveness (Europa, 2015). The strengthening of the EIA system is much needed as its existence is faced with threats from government and others who consider it to be no more than an expensive and time-consuming regulatory hurdle (Pope et al., 2013).
Conflicting interests may arise when applying the principles (IAIA, 1999), implementing follow up may clash with the principle of cost efficiency. The cost of monitoring can be a critical factor in developing monitoring measures (Europa, 2017c). Nevertheless, a requirement for monitoring is considered a measure to aid in time and cost efficiency for future projects (Europa, 2015).
EIA is a systematic process consisting of a number of stages (Jay et al., 2007 ; Glasson, 2012). The stages vary among member states and jurisdictions (Europa, 2017c ; Glasson et al., 2012; Morrison-Saunders & Arts, 2012), however generic process lists exist showing follow up as an integral part (Europa, 2017c ; IAIA, 1999 ; Glasson et al., 2012). An overview of the stages usually carried out consists of the following (Europa, 2017c).
1. Screening – To decide whether an EIA is required.
2. Scoping – To determine the content and extent of the assessment, and the information to be included in the EIA report.
3. EIA report – The developer carries out the assessment, the outputs of which are included in the EIA report, which consists of:
• Information regarding the project
• Baseline scenario
• Likely significant effect of the project
• Proposed alternatives
• Mitigation measures
4. Information & consultation – EIA report made available to the relevant authorities and the public for review.
5. Decision making & development consent – EIA report examined and concluded on whether project is likely to produce significant effects on the environment.
6. Information on development consent – The public is informed on the development decision.
7. Monitoring (as appropriate) – To monitor the significant adverse effects on the environment during the construction and operation phase, as well as the mitigation measures.
The diversity of processes among EU Member States is cause for concern and may jeopardise EIA effectiveness (Pope et al., 2013). Comparative monitoring at the Member state level is required to determine the performance of the EIA process. A review of 112 EIA reports from eight EU Member States (1990-91 to 1994-96) revealed the area of identification and evaluation to be not well performed, with the area of alternatives and mitigation to be the least well performed section of the EIA report (Barker & Wood, 1999, 388, 389, 392,393).
New methodologies are required to improve the EIA process (Ramanathan, 2001). However, research on the evaluation of EIA predictive techniques and audit methodologies is still lacking (Wood, 2000). Monitoring is advised to improve predictive techniques (Chen et al., 2007 62), and further post-audit research is needed to maximise learning from experience (Wood, 2000 554).
Rationale for EIA Follow up
Follow ups goal is the same as EIA, to minimize negative impacts of a projects development (IAIA, 20072). The purpose of EIA follow up is to rationalize project development and decision making (Arts & Morrison-Saunders, 2004 34), by addressing EIA outcomes and providing feedback on the actual environmental consequences of a project. The actual impacts can then be compared to the conditions for the decision (Art et al., 2001 175), and the predictions made in the EIA report (Morrison-Saunders & Arts, 2001). This should be a priority as the actual impacts are what’s important for protecting the environment, not the predicted (Marshall et al., 2005 177). Monitoring is essential to measure change, know the effects a project has had, and inspect where further mitigation is needed (Morrison-Saunders ; Arts, 2005 172).
EIA does not reach its full potential when follow up is not included in the process, as without it the procedure is incomplete and the actual impacts as a result of EIA planning and decision-making will not be known. Without it, Stakeholders right to feedback on EIA processes cannot be fulfilled (IAIA, 2007 2 ; Marshall et al 2005 178). In a way, EIA can be considered futile without follow up (Nadeem ; Hameed, 2010 115).
Objectives of EIA follow up other than providing information on the actual impacts of a project include, checking compliance with mitigation requirements, enhancing scientific knowledge on mitigation measures and cause-effect relationships, improving methods and cost efficiency, enhancing public awareness by providing them with the actual consequences of development, and enabling decision making flexibility to make changes to an ongoing project when needed. Follow up on individual EIA projects can be used to strengthen the EIA system overall (Arts et al., 2001 176, 177). If EIA performance in predicting impacts and providing environmental protection is to improve, learning from experience must take place and be applied to the future (Dipper, 1998). Follow up is considered most effective when results from one project are used in the decision making for future projects (Morrison-Saunders ; Arts, 2001). The feedback loop makes the otherwise linear EIA process more flexible and adaptive (Arts ; Morrison-Saunders, 2004 29). Including feedback in the EIA process allows for learning from experience to take place (IAIA, 2007 1).
The importance of learning about the actual impacts a project has, the effectiveness of the mitigation measures used to minimize these impacts, and the accuracy of impact prediction methods to improve future EIAs is obvious (Marshall et al., 2005 177). Although there has been a shift in the focus of EIA follow up from evaluating the accuracy of impact prediction methods, towards providing a link with environmental management and communication of environmental performance to Stakeholders. Follow up is essential to ensure effective project management with minimal adverse environmental impacts (Morrison-Saunders ; Arts, 2005 171 172).
However, follow up all too often goes undone after the consent decision, despite the need to get a grip on uncertainties. This is a weakness in the EIA process (Arts ; Morrison-Saunders, 2004 26). There is a need for more regular follow up as wherever EIA is needed follow up is also warranted, Improved documentation and reporting of results to support learning from experience, and more rigorous follow up methods and techniques (Morrison-Saunders ; Arts, 2005 173). Learning from experience is considered key to advancing EIA follow up (Marshall et al., 2005 180)