A World Bank View (Burton and Aalst, 1999)1:
A highly vulnerable system would be one that is highly sensitive to modest changes in climate, and one for which the ability to adapt is severely constrained. Projects include those where direct impacts of climate change may affect the viability of the project itself, or projects where consideration of climate change should be incorporated to avoid risks. Examples of vulnerable projects include coastal infrastructure, large hydro plants, or agriculture vulnerable to drought. Projects where risk could be reduced include agricultural research designed to increase output or irrigation projects – these projects may not be vulnerable themselves, but can be used to reduce vulnerability of the sector. Education and health projects were excluded, because such a broad definition would include almost all projects.
Climate change issues identified:
- low lying coastal lands periodically inundated by sea water driven inland by cyclonic storms (Bangledesh, Papua New Guinea)
- small size and limited portfolio (Samoa)
- floods and flash floods (Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe)
- drought (Bangledesh, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe)
- El Niño (Ecuador, Guyana)
- rigid sea defenses (Guyana)
In some cases, climate change is being incorporated in projects, and in other, specific climate change studies have been implemented. However, few sectors and few countries have the capacity to deal with the anticipated extremes in climate.
A follow-up climate change assessment was prepared by Burton and Aalst in 20042, which emphasize the need for risk management in development practices. A scan of Country Assistance Strategies and project documents reaffirmed their earlier conclusions and suggested that climate risks had yet received due attention. They concluded a coherent system is needed that will consider together both current risks from climate variability and extremes as well as longer-term climate change. They also noted a growing interest in the potential of public involvement and public-private partnerships in insurance.
Climate change can be related to sustainable development and thus linked to the Equator Principles. These Principles, recently adopted by many International Finance Institutions (IFIs), provide an example of a comprehensive approach to IA for development projects. They require:
- assessment of baseline environmental and social conditions,
- requirements under host country laws and regulations,
- applicable international treaties and agreements,
- sustainable development and use of renewable natural resources,
- protection of human health, cultural properties, and biodiversity, including endangered species and sensitive ecosystems,
- consideration of use of dangerous substances, major hazards, occupational health and safety, fire prevention and life safety,
- assessment of socio-economic impacts, land acquisition and land use, involuntary resettlement, impacts on indigenous peoples and communities,
- assessment of cumulative impacts of existing projects, the proposed project, and anticipated future projects,
- participation of affected parties in the design, review and implementation of the project,
- consideration of feasible environmentally and socially preferable alternatives, efficient production, delivery and use of energy, pollution prevention and waste minimization, pollution controls (liquid effluents and air emissions) and solid and chemical waste management.
They do not, however, specifically mention climate change. Lawrence (2009)3 provides a recent review of the Equator Principles and their application in EIA and sustainability.
In March 27, 2008 the World Bank produced a Concept and Issues Paper for broad consultation entitled "Towards a Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development for The World Bank Group". In this paper, Pillar 1 was identified as Scaling Up Operational Approaches to Integrating Adaptation and Mitigation in Development Strategies. This 46-page document describes risk and impacts generally but references the impact assessment process only in passing.
The current focus of adaptation in assessing impacts of the environment on the project is of direct relevance to funding agencies, such as IFIs, and is gradually becoming integrated with the EIA process. This approach has developed from experience with projects particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially large water projects where precipitation is anticipated to change and coastal project potentially affected by sea level rise and increased storm magnitude or frequency.
1Burton, I. and M.K. van Aalst. 1999. Come Hell or High Water: Integrating climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation into Bank Work. World Bank Environment Department Paper No. 72. The World Bank, Washington DC.
2Burton, I. and M.K. van Aalst. 2004. Look Before You Leap: A Risk Management Approach for Incorporating climate Change Adaptation in World Bank Operations. Prepared for the Global Climate Change Team (ENV), The World Bank, Washington DC.
3Lawrence, P. 2009. Equator Principles: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sustainability. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 27(1): 3-6.
The Arctic is a barometer of climate change, as indicated by the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment1 and more recent studies and assessments. Koivurova (2008) describes the complex issues surrounding EIA and transboundary assessments in the Arctic, including climate change2.
In Canada's North, an area experiencing some of the most intense changes in climate, EIA terms of reference have to date exclusively focused on how climate change may affect the viability of a proposed project. For example, the Gahcho Kué Environmental Impact Review Panel, a panel responsible for reviewing a proposed De Beers diamond Mine in Canada's Northwest Territories, summarized a common Canadian position in the 2007 terms of reference for its review3. It stated "(T)he scientific consensus is that the North is particularly vulnerable to impacts from a changing climate. The EIS must examine and evaluate the development as a potential greenhouse gas contributor. It must also examine potential climate change effects on the proposed development".
More recently, in a November, 2009 terms of reference for an EIA of a cobalt, gold, bismuth and copper mine4, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board required the developer to describe annual carbon emisions over the life of the mine and describe any offsets proposed to mitigate carbon emissions. The Review Board also required descriptions of potential effects of climate change on the development: It required the developer to describe how geotechincal stability of all engineered structures at the mine will be ensured against a range of climate scenarios, and how climate change was considered in the development of the mine's closure and reclamation plan to ensure the long-term physical integrity of permanent structures.
1Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). 2004. Arctic climate Impact Assessment: Impacts of a Warming Arctic. Cambrdige University Press. Available at .
2Koivurova, T. 2008. Transboundary Environmental Assessment in the Arctic. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 26(4): 265-275.
3 Gahcho Kué Environmental Impact Review Panel. October 5, 2007. Terms of Reference for the Gahcho Kué Environmental Impact Statement. Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, Yellowknife, NT, Canada
4 Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. November 30, 2009. Terms of Reference for the Environmental Assessment of Fortune Minerals Ltd. NICO Cobalt-Gold-Bismuth-Copper Project (EA 0809-004). Mackenzie Valley Environmental Imapact Review Board, Yellowknife, NT, Canada.