|The Courier N° 145 - May - June 1994- Dossier : European Union: the Way forward - Country Report: Ethiopia (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)|
by Tim Clarke
One of the innovations of the LomV Convention compared with its predecessors is the existence of a special Title on the Environment. Although opinions differ about the relative importance to ix given to the environment as compared with, for example, social or economic concerns, few would deny that an environmental analysis should be an essential element of any project appraisal process.
The basic question to be resolved is how this should be done. If you ask ten different people what they mean by 'the environment' you will probably get ten different answers. Some would say that it consists of our physical surroundings: the air we breathe, the land we cultivate, the water we drink. Others say that this is too restrictive. What about the social environment, the cultural environment, or the ecological relationship between humans and other fauna and flora? What about the global environment: carbon dioxide levels, climatic factors, the ozone layer and so on?
The first task in any environmental appraisal is to define its scope: in other words, what to include and what to exclude in the process. This is a difficult task in itself, but if you manage to do it, the next step is to try and predict potential environmental impacts. Some are relatively simple to judge. Others are much more complex.
Suppose, for example, that the project involve the rehabilitation of a road which passes through a forest. The road will need a new surface as well as realignment in certain parts. It is relatively easy for the engineer to calculate how much aggregate is needed, where it has to be quarried, how far it has to be transported and how much forest will be lost in the realignment process. The environmental impacts of all these operations can be quantified and a judgment made as to their level of acceptability or significance. It is even possible to calculate how much it would cost in monetary terms to quarry the material from elsewhere, or choose an alignment that reduces the loss of forest.
But what about the less quantifiable elements of such a project? What will be the environmental impact of an increase in the number of people travelling on the road, thus generating roadside settlements? This results in forms encroachment, with trees being cut down for fuelwood and land being cleared for food production. What about increased demand for water and fuel? What about ecological changes induced by such settlement patterns? And quite apart from the ecological factors, what monetary value should be placed on the loss of forest?
Then there is the problem of how one measures species losses, which are loss" not only to the country concerned but to the biosphere as a whole. Who should pay for such loss" - the project or the world community? This is an issue which is particularly difficult to resolve. Is an elephant or an ancient baobab tree worth ECU 500, ECU 10 000, ECU 100 000, or some other figure? To an African farmer, an elephant can be a major pest and a threat to life. To a trophy hunter, and a game department, it may be worth ECU 30 000. To a country that is highly reliant on tourism, it could be worth many times this amount.
A similar difficulty arises when calculating environmental risk to human health in urban areas suffering from traffic congestion. According to recent US Department of Traffic actuarial tables, an American or European life is worth be tween $1m and $4m, and road design must take account of this. In ACP countries, data on the value attached to a human life for such purposes are harder to obtain, but present economic analyses do not use values anything approaching these figures.
K you cannot value a resource, how do you judge its importance? In conventional cost-benefit analyses, an attempt is made to weigh up in economic terms whether or not a development project will bring positive economic benefits. But if you cannot value the loss of a wildlife resource, or an amenity, or the reduction in air or water quality, this creates a problem. Usually, the price tag that is assigned reflects only the market value of the traceable items; for example the timber produced as a result of the tree felling. Cultural, social or ecological values do not enter the equation. The result, historically, has been a gross underestimate of the real value of the resource to the community, and the approval of projects which degrade the environment, sometimes irreversibly.
Opinions differ as to whether it is better to include environmental factors in the economic assessment or treat them independently in a self-standing appraisal. There is no 'correct' answer here and, in practice, both approaches have been used.
New tool for environmental appraisal
Article 37 of the fourth Lomonvention sets out the requirement for the European Union and its ACP partners to design and implement cooperation instruments that are appropriate to environmental needs. In 1990, in pursuance of this obligation, the Commission initiated an appraisal of existing Lomnvironmental procedures. Existing environmental assessment provisions which were taken into account during this exercise included the 1985 OECD recommendations (adopted as guidelines in 1991), the EC's own Directive which entered into force in 1987, the various rules applied by the Member States, the arrangements then in place regarding development cooperation under the Lomonventions, and the World Bank's Operational Directive which first came into effect in 1989 (new guidelines issued in 1991).
This review coincided with a parallel internal Commission examination of its project appraisal procedures which led to the adoption of the 'Logical Framework and the Integrated Approach'.
The present version of the Environmental Manual was first published in June 1993 and it has a number of novel features. It is, for example, the first attempt both to synthesise the environmental screening procedures of the Community, OECD countries and World Bank in a single document, and to link these directly into the logical framework process. Additionally, it has a simple, user-friendly, colour-coded design, aimed at the nonspecialist. The information is presented in the form of a hierarchy, from simple to detailed, and the non-specialist who wishes to obtain further information can have access to the most up-to-date reference sources in an accompanying Source book (which is available on diskette).
The publication of the Manual coincided with the establishment of a number of internal Commission Environment Training Programmes. These were designed to encourage practical application of the new approach by Commission and ACP staff working in the field.
Initial feedback has so far been favourable but there is not enough field experience as yet to tell whether it really is an effective planning tool.
Looking to the future
During the next two years a number of developments are foreseen. These include the insertion of new sections in the Manual on Strategic Environment Planning, and Protected Areas Management, together with additional guidelines on environmental economics. In addition, discussions are planned with the EU Member States in order to determine how far it is possible to make the Lomnvironmental procedures more consistent with those of the Member States themselves. Further developments within the OECD are also expected while, at the multilateral level, the CIDIE organisations, which include most development banks and UN bodies, will be examining the issue.
When concerns about the effect of human activity on the global environment first moved on to the political agenda, it was perhaps inevitable that the initial policy response of national and international bodies would be ad hoc. But it has not taken long for those working in this field to recognise that environmental protection must be properly integrated into policy design in all fields and that a coherent approach from all the players is needed to ensure maximum impact. Lessons can be learnt from each other so that 'best practice' can be identified and adopted. This philosophy has been accepted by the European Commission in the implementation of its cooperation policy and, although it is too early to assess the results, the benefits should ultimately be seen in more environmentally sustainable development projects and schemes. T.C.