Multi-jurisdictional analysis of integration of climate change considerations in regulations and guidelines across 16 environmental impact assessment (EIA) regimes

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The contribution of the human activities to climate change is well understood. Yet integration of climate change considerations in tools designed to govern activities affecting the environment, such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), remains underdeveloped and inconsistently applied. There is no clear direction on what measure of consideration is sufficient for environmental decision-making on potential impacts on the climate for proposed policies, programs, plans and projects. This research reviews progress across a range of 16 EIA regimes and outlines the potential for integration of climate change considerations in EIA. The research used a desk review of EIA literature to identify and assess regulations and guidelines that have been established to promote the integration of climate change in EIA. A typology of levels of integration was developed to guide analysis across multiple EIA regimes. The findings identify a global and growing normative expectation for climate change considerations to be integrated into EIA and describe the range of ways this is done across the regimes selected. Climate change integration in EIA is typically concerned with climate change mitigation, specifically greenhouse gas emissions from proposed developments. Fewer regimes are concerned with climate change adaptation, and in general, an integration deficit is identified for regimes where climate change is partially considered. Several challenges to integrating climate change in EIA are identified, including lack of practice guidelines and regulatory frameworks. Reflecting on the variety of approaches, the discussion extends typologies of integration in EIA to examine and provide a better understanding of substantive consideration of climate change in EIA. Examples of high integration indicate that EIA holds potential to play a substantive role in environmental governance at project level decision making affecting climate change. However, the range of examples also cautions that many domestic obstacles can militate against integration including political, socio-technical, and economic imperatives – particularly those affecting sectoral and scope exclusions. Nevertheless, developments across some regimes indicate leverage points for greater integration, including the role of EIA review to establish new precedents for the relevance of climate change to EIA. Potential future research and practice directions are identified, including development of regulations and practice guidelines, inclusion of climate change adaptation aspects, strengthening postdecision monitoring, application to all relevant sectors and activities, alignment with SEA, and integration across all stages of the EIA process.