What is the role of impact assessment in the long term?
Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom; Research Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University (Potchefstroom), South Africa
This short paper makes the case that most impact assessment (IA) has sustainable development as the stated goal, but that it doesn't deliver sustainable outcomes. A key pillar of sustainable development is equity, both intra-generational (defined after Lamorgese and Geneletti (2013, p.119) as ensuring "equity of opportunity for everyone, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community and seek to create a good quality of life for everyone") and inter-generational equity (defined after Gibson et al. (2005, p. 235) as favouring "present options and actions that are most likely to preserve or enhance the opportunities and capabilities of future generations to live sustainably"). Notwithstanding the importance of intra-generational equity, this paper focuses on the problem that inter-generational equity presents to IA both because of the prevalence of short-term planning, and because approaches developed to deal with inherent uncertainty associated with impacts considered in the long term are overly resource intensive and therefore impractical. A research focus on IA processes that can deal with inter-generational impacts cost effectively might provide the basis on which to develop an IA tool that actually delivers on its stated goal and fits in with current decision-making norms. © 2015 Imperial College Press.
cost-benefit analysis; decision making; environmental impact assessment; sustainable development; uncertainty analysis