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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) on transboundary EIA, on SEA and on the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA. Links and resources on SEA are available with the on-line Resource Manual to support application of the Protocol. 

For help on specific topics, stages of assessment and sectors see the help topics page.
Hint: Use your web browser's Find function (Ctrl+F) to search for information by other keywords, e.g. for a particular country (e.g. France) or type of activity (e.g. railway).
Disclaimer: The following informal guidance is provided for information only and does not constitute formal legal or other professional advice. The authors assume no liability for actions undertaken in reliance on the information contained in this guidance.
 blob What is EIA? What does it do? What is the Espoo Convention?
Environmental Impact Assessment "is a systematic process to identify, predict and evaluate the environmental effects of proposed actions and projects." (UNEP EIA Training Resource Manual )
According to the Espoo Convention, EIA is "a national procedure for evaluating the likely impact of a proposed activity on the environment" (Article 1(vi)).
Transboundary EIA is the same as EIA, but there is an explicit consideration of potential transboundary effects, including consultation and public participation in the affected Party (i.e. the country that may be affected by a project in the 'Party of origin' or, more formally, the Contracting Party or Parties to the Convention likely to be affected by the transboundary impact of a proposed activity).
What does EIA do?
When done well, EIA has several potential benefits:
  • It may help the project proponent to identify project alternatives (alternative locations or technology, for example) and mitigation and compensatory measures that reduce the environmental impact of the project. Suggestions may come from the public, the EIA experts, the consultees and the developer.
  • It may provide for public involvement in the project design, promoting understanding between the community and developer. It may also promote good governance in the longer term: for example, Almer & Koontz found that public hearings as part of an EIA process "provide important indirect benefits that can contribute to the capacity for democratic governance and an active civil society".

See also:
Principles of EIA Best Practice, IAIA  (and IEA)
A study on cost and benefits in EIA/SEA, 1996, European Commission  (DG Environment ) ENG   

What is the Espoo Convention? See an introductory slideshow presentation.

  What is SEA? What does it do? What is the Protocol on SEA?
General definition of Strategic Environmental Assessment: "The formalised, systematic and comprehensive process of evaluating the environmental impacts of a policy, plan or programme and its alternatives, including the preparation of a written report on the findings of that evaluation, and using the findings in publicly accountable decision-making." (Source: Therivel et al)
According to the Protocol on SEA, SEA is "the evaluation of the likely environmental, including health, effects, which comprises the determination of the scope of an environmental report and its preparation, and the carrying-out of public participation and consultations, the taking into account of the environmental report and the results of the public participation and consultations in a plan or programme." (article 2.6).
What does it do?
Brochure on the Benefits of SEA, UNDP /REC 
See also:      
A study on cost and benefits in EIA/SEA, 1996, European Commission  (DG Environment ) ENG   
Performance criteria for SEA, IAIA 

What is the Protocol on SEA? See an introductory slideshow presentation
For much more on the Protocol and numerous links and resources, see the Resource Manual.

  Why are these international agreements important?
They promote:
  • Protection of the environment
  • Sustainable development
  • Public participation and good governance
  • Standards
  • International cooperation
  • New approaches

  Which States can become Parties to the Espoo Convention and Protocol on SEA?
UNECE member States (see list) can become Parties to either instrument. For other UN Member States, the possibility of becoming a Party is described below.
For the Espoo Convention, an amendment to the Convention has been adopted (in 2001) to allow non-UNECE member States to become Parties to the Convention (see current status ). Once in the amendment is in force, the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention may approve the accession of a UN Member State that is not a member State of the UNECE.
The Protocol on SEA includes a similar provision. The 'Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol' may approve the accession of a UN Member State that is not a member State of the UNECE.
Accession (or ratification, etc.) to a treaty requires that a State is able to implement the treaty, i.e. all the preparatory work such as enactment of national legislation should have been completed.

  How does the Convention interact with other international agreements?
The secretariat to the Espoo Convention undertook an informal review of transboundary EIA provisions in selected multilateral environmental agreements:
Main review ENG
Shortened review (presented at the 8th meeting of the Working Group on EIA) ENG
Presentation to the Working Group (with two detailed examples) ENG

In addition, the secretariat to the Espoo Convention has undertaken a number of informal studies between the Convention and ...
Неофициальные исследования, проведенные секретариатом Конвенции об ОВОС. Взаимосвязь между Конвенцией об ОВОС и …
Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (2002) ENG
Convention on Biological Diversity (2002) ENG
Convention on Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (1st study, 1995) (2MB) ENG
Convention on Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (2nd study, 2002) ENG
Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourse and International Lakes (c. 1996) (2MB) ENG

  Where can I find guidance on carrying out an EIA?
See also training below. For specific guidance see the Help Topics.
Transboundary EIA guidance:
The Parties adopted (June 2004) Guidance on the Practical Application of the Espoo Convention - available as a printable document in various languages ENG  
- as web pages ENG RUS
Procedural Guide: Transboundary consultation of the authorities and the public for projects having a significant environmental impact in the Upper Rhine area - Franco-German-Swiss Conference of the Upper Rhine FRA German
Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context in the Caspian Sea Region - produced by UNEP, the Convention, EBRD and the Caspian Environment Programme (1.3MB) ENG RUS
Guidelines for EIA in the Arctic, produced by the Finnish Environment Institute (1.4MB) ENG  
Recommendations for the performance of transboundary EIA between Germany and Poland (Germany as state of origin of a planned project) - the results of a practical trial of implementation of the Espoo Convention, produced by German Federal Environmental Agency  (1.1MB) German Polish
- summary ENG  

For general EIA guidance:
Guidance from France on EIA - France (Ministère de l’écologie, du développement et de l'aménagement durables ) FRE

The study (IMP)3 - "IMProving the IMPlementation of Environmental IMPact Assessment" produced reports on:
Health Aspects in EIA (2MB) ENG 
Risk Assessment (2MB) ENG 
Projects subject to EIA (1.2MB) ENG 
Policy Options (2MB) ENG 

Web-based EIA guidance:
Hong Kong's 'Cyber Help Bench for EIA' ENG 

Reviews of effectiveness, from European Commission  (DG Environment ), available here:
The outcome of EIA in Denmark. Ministry of Environment /Aalborg University, 2003 ENG 
5 years report ENG 
Update of 5-years EIA Report - 1997 ENG 
Evaluation of the performance of the EIA process - 1996 ENG 
How successful are the EU Member States in implementing the EU's EIA Directive (and by extension the Espoo Convention)? ENG

And from Switzerland:
Report of the Swiss Federal Council on the implementation of EIA and authorization procedures, Swiss Confederation  FRE  German  Italian 
Review of the effectiveness of EIA in Switzerland - with abstract in English, German, French and Italian, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment  FRE  German   

International Study of the Effectiveness of Environmental Assessment, Final Report, Environmental Assessment in a Changing World: Evaluating Practice to Improve Performance, Prepared by Barry Sadler, June 1996, with support from CIDA and IAIA  (6MB!) ENG

There is also guidance on different stages (as well as topics, e.g. biodiversity, and sectors) on the Help Topics page:

  Where can I find examples of transboundary EIAs?
Case study fact sheets are being prepared for the Convention. For the latest see here.
Transboundary EIAs as notified by Parties to the Convention are available here.
In addition:
EBRD publishes EIAs for projects that it funds - some are labelled 'regional' but may not necessarily refer to the Espoo Convention, whereas others do refer to Espoo (e.g. Narva Power, Estonia) ENG   
Caspian Environment Programme to hold transboundary EIAs - initial information is available (rather old) ENG   
Recommendations for the performance of transboundary EIA between Germany and Poland (Germany as state of origin of a planned project) - the results of a practical trial of implementation of the Espoo Convention - German Federal Environmental Agency  (1MB) German Polish
- summary ENG  

  Where can I get training in transboundary EIA?
The following EIA training resources may be useful:
UNEP EIA Training Resource Manual, 2nd Edition, from United Nations Environment Programme , Economics and Trade Programme  ARA  ENG  FRE 
- 1st Edition (translation by Ecoline). RUS     
International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) EIA Training Course Database (look in Training / Resources) ENG     
EIA Training Resource Manual for South Eastern Europe - materials available in English and in subregional languages (look in Training / Resources), from the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC-CEE ) ENG     

References (return to the item using the back arrow, or go back to questions)
 Almer, H.L., & T.M. Koontz, 2004, Public hearings for EIAs in post-communist Bulgaria: do they work?, in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 24 (2004), pp. 473-493.
 Therivel, R., E. Wilson, S. Thompson, D. Heaney & D. Pritchard. 1992. Strategic Environmental Assessment. Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, UK.