For site-specific climate mitigation projects, including those in the LULUCF sector, one means of assessing and strengthening their contributions to sustainable development is through the application of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) prior to project approval. An EIA is a broad process that informs decisionmakers about a project's potential environmental and societal risks and impacts, as well as examining alternatives and identifying mitigative measures (Krawetz, 1991; Glasson et al., 1994; Munn, 1994). Running in parallel with the process of identifying, designing, and implementing projects, effective application of an EIA to climate mitigation projects might help ensure that potential positive and negative environmental and societal impacts (Section 5.5) are effectively addressed in all phases of project development.
Currently, more than 100 countries have a national EIA system (Canter, 1996). One factor that affects their applicability to LULUCF climate mitigation projects is that EIA guidelines and their degree of rigor in application vary widely. For projects between countries, this factor could create an incentive for project investors to support carbon-offset projects in areas with the least rigorous standards.
One option for the Parties to address this concern would be to adopt internationally recognized EIA standards and guidelines for carbon-offset projects. For example, the World Bank has published its three volume Environmental Assessment Sourcebook (World Bank, 1991). The Sourcebook contains sectoral guidelines for natural forest, livestock, rangeland, and agricultural production management; plantation development/reforestation; and watershed development. For each of these sectors, the Sourcebook identifies several potential environmental and social impacts, as well as mitigating measures for negative impacts. Potential social impacts identified in the Sourcebook include impacts on the labor market and labor availability; a shift to more cash-based economy; alteration of daily living patterns and the political power structure; changes in access to resources, perhaps through changes in land tenure; changes in infrastructure and social services; and changes in population demography, such as increases in internal migration as a result of project activities. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a similar manual titled Environmental Guidelines for Selected Agricultural and Natural Resources Development Projects (ADB, 1990).
For projects between countries, this concern also could be addressed by ensuring that the national environmental standards and guidelines of donor and host countries be satisfied. The effectiveness of EIAs can be further strengthened by ensuring that they are carried out by independent, third-party experts; that they clearly integrate socioeconomic and environmental aspects of project assessment; and that recommendations be demonstrably incorporated into project activities.
A decision by the Parties to adopt requirements that climate mitigation projects undergo EIAs prior to project approval may affect project costs and the rate of project implementation. This Special Report does not analyze the potential cost and time implications of adopting national and/or international EIA standards and guidelines for LULUCF projects.
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