Driving climate change adaptation through Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): emerging practice on assessing resilience of proposed projects

09:00 Thursday 30 May

OC226

Room S6

 

Nikki Van Dijk (United Kingdom) 1; Paul Munday (United Kingdom) 1; Tom Wood (United Kingdom) 1; Katharine Thorogood (United Kingdom) 1

1 - WSP

Objectives

The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (2014/52) was updated in 2014 The updated Directive requires that climate resilience be considered as part of environmental assessment, as well as the impacts of a project on climate (greenhouse gas emissions). The update represents a significant opportunity to improve the resilience of major infrastructure projects at an early stage in the project lifecycle.

However, resilience assessment within EIA presents a methodological challenge as it is the potential impact of the environment (climate) on the scheme that is assessed, rather than the impact of the scheme on the environment. Based on recent assessments for projects in the transport and energy sectors across Europe, this paper presents a method for aligning a Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) approach with the EIA process.

Method

The CRVA approach is typically used to assess the climate risk to infrastructure investments. In our approach to climate resilience assessment in EIA, a vulnerability assessment is carried out at Scoping stage. This identifies climate variables the project is likely to be vulnerable to, based on exposure to current and projected climate and sensitivity to changing climatic conditions. The output is shared with designers and other environmental disciplines as part of an iterative process.

A more detailed risk assessment is reported in the EIA report, once further design detail (including planned resilience measures) is available. The risk assessment considers the range of hazards associated with the climate variables identified in the vulnerability assessment. These are assessed in terms of likelihood and consequence of occurrence. The final stage is to assign a resilience rating to each hazard, taking account of adaptation measures included as part of the scheme design.

Results / conclusions

Several lessons have been learnt through application of the approach, including:

  • Early communication with EIA coordinators is required to agree the resilience assessment method;
  • Significant up-front effort is required to undertake the vulnerability assessment;
  • There needs to be flexibility in how findings of the resilience assessment are reported;
  • Definition of likelihood and consequence has a strong bearing on the output of the risk assessment;
  • There is a need for standardisation of terminology around climate resilience within the EIA community.

The benefits of using the approach are also discussed. The main benefit is that resilience is mainstreamed through early consideration of vulnerability and dialogue with designers. This will deliver better outcomes in terms of resilient infrastructure.