Pollution could be avoided if environmental aspects were routinely considered at the time of approval of a plant or an action. This was the defining insight of the 1970s and 1980s, which finally resulted in the adoption of an EU regulation (Council Directive 85/337/ECC of 27th June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment) and later in the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, which came into force in 1990.
Thus, the longstanding debate on the famous “EIA” was placed on firm legal ground. Many critics were disappointed in the relatively weak implementation of the EIA as a “dependent part” of the legislative process, and the law for the facilitation of investment lead to the exemption of many facilities. However, environmental aspects had been given significance by way of legal enforcement.
It took more than ten years to integrate the insight that environmental aspects need to be considered at the planning stage already—not only during the construction of facilities— into European and German law. Whether it is a land use plan, development plan, a waste management concept, a transport plan, or a programme of measures following the Water Management Act—pivotal decisions on environmental matters are made in many different places. Strategic environmental assessment (Strategische Umweltprüfung, SUP) is the term for the German legally defined procedure that was introduced as a mandatory hurdle for certain plans and programmes in 2005. The new acronym SUP allows the distinction from single EIAs. There is a continuous debate on the requirement of environmental impact assessments for policy drafts and propositions, i.e. decisions that come before the planning stage. However, these ideas may never be put into practice in the form of legally binding regulations.
Environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments are administrative acts that may only be carried out by recognised authorities. ifeu contributes to these administrative acts in the form of environmental impact studies (Umweltverträglichkeitsuntersuchungen, UVUs), reports, and expert consulting. ifeu has provided support for the administrative procedures around environmental impact assessments on behalf of a range of clients including project applicants, municipalities, complainants, and authorities.
ifeu further offers initial research and implementation of novel legal developments such as the environmental impact assessment pre-audit of projects or the strategic environmental assessment of plans and programmes. With almost 20 years of expertise, including queries of administration, we are pleased to offer help and advice for project applicants, authorities and complainants. Our experience with a wide range of projects allows us a broad perspective that may be focused and adapted to best suit the needs of the respective stakeholder.
At ifeu, the set of assessment parameters that form the base of environmental impact studies is applied in a wider context that exceeds the limits of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVPG). For instance, the environmental impacts of the national Energy Transition policies or the environmental impacts of biomass conversion pathways are assessed under consideration of the safeguard subject approach.