An environmental assessment involves evaluating the influence which a potential or proposed project may exhibit upon the environment. It involves the processes of evaluating, identifying, mitigating and predicting biophysical impacts. An environmental assessment aims at both initially identifying adverse environmental effects which a particular plan may impose and then predicting the mitigation techniques required to lessen the impact of these adverse influences.
In the realm of planning, environmental assessments are a very important decision-making tool. Environmental planning depends on environmental assessments being conducted so that a designated project can be analyzed and its potential influence on the environment can be measured in terms of negative environmental impacts. Naturally, some environmental assessments will be more rigorous and time consuming than others. Thus, this is a type of tool in which both efficiency and effectiveness are important when deciding which proposed environmental assessments should take precedence.
In the Canadian context, environmental assessments are required to follow specific requirements set-out by federal legislation. Specifically, environmental assessments are regulated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012). This act has multiple purposes which include: to promote coordination between different levels of government, promote sustainable development, protect different aspects of the environment and make sure that these assessments are completed in a timely manner1.
Essentially, in the project planning cycle, environmental assessments are important tools to utilize so that potential proposals are as environmentally sound as possible. Furthermore, the institutionalized nature of environmental assessments illustrates the increased government accountability which is accompanying this type of environmental policy.
1. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. (2013). Basics of Environmental Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=B053F859-1#gen01
Title Image Credit: Geograph. (2014). Drive a Diesel Train Experience, Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. Retrieved from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2095770