Biological diversity could have greater role in environmental impact assessments

Biodiversity considerations are to feature more prominently in environmental impact assessment guidelines, following the signing of a memorandum of co-operation by senior officials at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA).

The guidelines are intended to provide countries with appropriate procedures for implementing policies or planning projects in order to minimise or avoid effects on the environment and its biodiversity, according to the two organisations.

“Currently, too many environmental assessments around the world do not fully include the biodiversity dimension,” said Peter Leonard, IAIA President. “IAIA is continually striving to improve the process of impact assessment, and this is a critical area for improvement. IAIA and CBD working together is an important step toward more comprehensive environmental assessment practices.”

The agreement follows a request of the Parties to the CBD, which stems from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to gain access to current experiences of environmental impact assessments that incorporate biological diversity issues. The CBD and the IAIA intend to develop and refine guidelines and introduce biodiversity considerations in all stages of impact assessment.

“The adoption of such guidelines is a significant achievement and a step forward in mainstreaming biodiversity, which has been neglected for far too long,” said Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the CBD. “The integration of biodiversity issues means that the process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a project or a policy will from now on not only take into account the socio-economic, cultural and human impacts, but also the ones on biological diversity, whether beneficial or adverse.”

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