Approaches to impact appraisal

The IAU was established in the 1970s with an initial assessment on the socio-economic impacts of major projects, particularly in the UK energy sector. Since then the IAU’s remit has widened, as has its influence on the practice of EIA, through undertaking research that is close to practice and generating publications which inform and shape practice.

Examples of recent projects

Understanding EIA scoping in practice: a pramatist interpretation

Despite widespread recognition of the need to consider IA effectiveness in terms of practice, the literature is dominated by normative approaches that do little to advance understanding of the causal process that lead to particular outcomes. Focusing upon EIA scoping in England, Graham Wood and Eva Hansen# examined notions of effectiveness directly from the perspective of key practitioner communities. The ‘received view’ of scoping asserts that effectiveness is constrained by a failure to narrow the assessment focus. Using an alternative, pragmatist interpretation (inspired by American philosophical pragmatism) they analysed the understandings and actions of professional practitioner communities.

Findings from the study are published in: Hansen E and Wood G (2016) Understanding EIA scoping in practice: a pragmatist interpretation of effectiveness. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 58: 1-11

# Eva Hansen is based at consultants Peter Brett Associates. The research was carried out for her master dissertation at Oxford Brookes.

Informing and shaping practice

The book ‘Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment’ written by John Glasson, Riki Therivel and Andrew Chadwick is one of the most widely used and cited books on EIA worldwide. First published in 1994 it is currently in its 4th edition. ‘Probably the highest endorsement I can give this book is that I have used the first edition in my teaching of environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a number of years now and have subsequently changed over to this ... version. It presents an excellent introduction to the theory and practice of EIA ... Overall this is an informative book and probably the best introductory text on EIA available; it is well worth purchasing a copy.’ Review in Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal.

The IAU staff have produced a suite of key texts on EIA including:

  • Methods of EIA (previously edited by Morris and Therivel, the 4th edition is edited by Riki Therivel and Graham Wood and is due 2017)
  • Expert Systems and GIS for EIA (Rodriguez-Bachiller with John Glasson)
  • Furthering Environmental Impact assessment: linking Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Systems (Anastassios Perdicoulis, Bridget Durning and Palframan)

‘The book is good for practitioners wanting to develop an understanding of the interface between EIA, environmental management plans, environmental management systems and sustainability management. Researchers examining EIA follow-up or the environmental management of developments should have ready access to this book, but it also holds value for practitioners in consultancies, contractors and large developers who would like a better understanding of how to manage environmental risk during the design, consenting, construction and operation of EIA developments.’
– Josh Fothergill, The Environmentalist

Minimisation of and adaptation to climate impacts on biodiversity (MACIS)

The MACIS programme was funded as a 6th Framework Programme STReP project for the European Commission. Overall the programme summarised what was already known about the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and developed methods to assess the potential impacts in the future. In joint co-operation with policy makers and stakeholders MACIS shows what can be done to stop biodiversity loss. Within the programme (which ran from 2006 to 2009) and together with 10 collaborating institutions across the EU, IAU staff Elizabeth Wilson and former colleague Jake Piper undertook a review of EU and Member States policy and policy options with respect to biodiversity and climate change, evaluating current policy and measures and potential future approaches. Outputs from the project are available from the MACIS website.