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ARCHIVE: Environmental Impact Guidance

The purpose of the Environmental Impact Guidance is to provide guidance and supporting material to enable departments to understand and quantify, where possible in monetary terms, the wider environmental consequences of their proposals.  The guidance refers to all environmental impacts apart from carbon, for which separate guidance is available at DECC. This guidance has been developed as a key source for completing the wider environmental impact test  in the Impact Assessments template (on the BIS website).  However, this environmental impact guidance should also be seen as generally applicable to the appraisal of new policies, programmes and proposals. Information from Environmental Impact Assessment is also relevant to the Sustainable Development Impact Test.

Why you need to consider wider environmental impacts

The rationale for taking wider environmental impacts into account is underpinned by existing guidance on policy appraisal.   The Treasury Green Book highlights the importance of trying to identify all costs and benefits including environmental.  While impacts on the environment often do not have any market prices, it is important to try and use evidence on non market values attached to environmental impacts where feasible (see Tools for Environmental Valuation).  Costs and benefits to the environment that have not been valued should also be appraised.   All costs and benefits must therefore be clearly described in an appraisal, and should be quantified where this is possible and meaningful.  Where it is not possible to provide a monetised or quantified assessment, it is important to provide a qualitative assessment of potential impacts.

How to complete the Wider Environmental Impact Test

The summary guidance documents below will help you go through the Wider Environmental Impact Test - following this guidance will help to demonstrate that as far as possible the impacts on the wider environment have been taken into account in the policy appraisal process and provide appropriate evidence to present in the Impact Assessment:

For more detailed guidance on taking account of wider environmental impacts in policy appraisal, see step by step guidance.  These pages present a suggested step by step approach to the assessment of wider environmental impacts of policy options.  The emphasis is placed on having a staged and proportionate approach.  Hence the early stages focus on scoping work to identify what options have the potential to  give rise to significant wider environmental impacts.  Where options are not expected to lead to significant wider environmental impacts or are focused on a single environmental impact (eg air quality) then further stages of analysis on other environmental impacts may not be appropriate.  Where it is identified that the impacts on wider environmental impacts could be significant and wide ranging from the scoping stage, subsequent steps in the analysis are proposed including the use of an ecosystem services framework.  This framework offers a more comprehensive approach to understanding how policies impact on the wider environment.

Further Help

Consideration of the impacts on the environment at an early stage of the policy process will enable an informed assessment.  It will ensure that sufficient time is available to assess where wider environmental impacts are significant and quantify and monetise where appropriate.  Following this guidance and demonstrating that the wider environmental impacts of your policy have been taken into account will help to ensure that the policy is consistent with sustainable development principles.  For further support and general advice on taking account of wider environmental impacts in policy appraisal, please contact the Natural Environment Economics team at nee@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Page last modified: 7 April 2010
Page published: 1 April 2010

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