Progressing quality control in environmental impact assessment beyond legislative compliance: an evaluation of the IEMA EIA Quality Mark certification scheme
Fischer, Thomas B.
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The effectiveness of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) systems is contingent on a number of control mechanisms: procedural; judicial; evaluative; public and government agency; professional; and development aid agency. If we assume that procedural and judicial controls are guaranteed in developed EIA systems, then progressing effectiveness towards an acceptable level depends on improving the performance of other control mechanisms over time. These other control mechanisms are either absent, or are typically centrally controlled, requiring public finances; this we argue is an unpopular model in times of greater Government austerity. Here we evaluate a market-based mechanism for improving the performance of evaluative and professional control mechanisms, the UK Institute of Environmental Management and Assessments' EIA Quality Mark. We do this by defining dimensions of effectiveness for the purposes of our evaluation, and by identifying international examples of the approaches taken to delivering the other control measures to validate the approach taken in the EIA Quality Mark. We then evaluate the EIA Quality Mark, when used in combination with legal procedures and an active judiciary, against the effectiveness dimensions and use time-series analysis of registrant data to examine its ability to progress practice. We conclude that the EIA Quality Mark has merit as a model for a market-based mechanism, and may prove a more financially palatable approach for delivering effective EIA in mature systems in countries that lack centralised agency oversight. It may, therefore, be of particular interest to some Member States of the European Union for ensuring forthcoming certification requirements stemming from recent amendments to the EIA Directive