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EIA Accreditation: what and how?

In all of the countries where the NCEA has been involved there are concerns about the quality of the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that are produced. This complaint can be heard in countries where EIA is a relatively young instrument, but also in countries where EIA has been operational for many, many years. Regardless of the maturity of an EIA system, it seems necessary that countries invest in mechanisms that ensure a minimum level of quality of EIA practice. Ideally, such mechanisms stimulate performance beyond the minimum, and drive practitioners towards good practice EIA.

If EIA quality if a problem, then an investment in EIA review seems worthwhile. However, there are additional means by which EIA quality can be managed. One such means is the ac-creditation or certification of the individuals or organisations that undertake key tasks within EIA. Usually EIA accreditation will aim to manage the quality of EIA makers, but there are also examples available where it is the EIA reviewers who are certified. Note that accreditation has not proven to be an “easy fix” for low EIA quality. Certification and accreditation systems re-quire a significant up-front investment and ongoing management costs.

This building block publication gives some examples of accreditation mechanisms for EIA, and sets out a range of considerations that will help a discussion on introducing or improving an accreditation system. Also, this document presents some guidance on how to design and manage an accreditation system. References to more detailed resources on this topic are given. Note that this document will not be covering environmental management and compli-ance certification schemes, such as the International Standards Organisation (ISO) 14000 se-ries, which are not EIA specific.