assess and manage environmental risks and impacts

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Environment protection principle 2: assess and
manage environmental risks and impacts
This Good Practice
Note is for DFAT
staff, delivery
partners and
environment
specialists
involved in
delivering
Australia’s aid
program. It is one
of a series of notes
which explains the
principles of the
aid program’s
Environment
Protection Policy
and how they
should be
addressed. The
notes complement
the Operational
Procedures of the
Environment
Protection Policy.
This Good Practice
Note should be
read in conjunction
with the
Department of the
Environment
publication: Actions
on, or impacting
upon,
Commonwealth,
land and actions by
Commonwealth
agencies Significant
impact guidelines
1.2.
2.2 How to screen aid activities for
environmental risks
1. Screening identifies risks and the next steps
Screening is usually conducted at concept stage in order to identify potential
environmental risks and to guide the next steps in risk assessment and
management. Screening helps to identify potential environmental impacts
which should be assessed, avoided or mitigated, or referred under the EBPC
Act if they are likely to have a significant impact on the environment.
2. What are the legal obligations?
All aid program staff are obliged to screen all aid activity for environmental
risks under:
1. Partner country laws
2. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC
Act)
3. Multilateral environment agreements
3. Environmental screening checklist
All aid program activities should be screened using the checklist below to
identify potential environmental risks.
Activities likely to be low risk include investment in sectors that have no
direct interaction with the environment and for which there are no reasonably
foreseeable direct or indirect environmental impacts, including most activities
in health, education and governance.
Keep in mind that investments may have indirect as well as direct
environment impacts and that support for trusts and facilities, for example,
could have environmental risks if adverse impacts could reasonably be
predicted to result from DFAT support.
Environment protection principle 2: assess and
manage environmental risks and impacts
Table 1: Environment Safeguards screening questions
Yes
No
Not
Sure
Environment
Q3.1 Will the investment support any of the following:





medium to large-scale infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways,
ports, infrastructure for energy generation; or
development of irrigation and drainage, diversion of water; or
land clearing, intensification of land use; or
hazardous materials and wastes; or
activity in mining, energy, forestry, fisheries, water supply, urban
development, transport, tourism or manufacturing sectors?
Q3.2 Will the investment support any of the following:



small to medium scale infrastructure such as localised water supply
and/or sanitation infrastructure; irrigation and drainage; rural
electrification, rural roads; or
construction/renovation/refurbishment/demolition of any building for
example: schools, hospitals or public buildings; or
localised use of natural resources, including small-scale water
diversion, agriculture, or other types of land-use change?
Q3.3 Will the investment contribute to, directly or indirectly, or
facilitate, activities such as those listed above, including through:




trust funds, procurement facilities; or
co-financing contributions; or
support for planning, change to regulatory frameworks, technical
advice, training or;
applied research?
Q3.4 Has an environmental review of the proposed investment
already been, or will be completed by an implementing partner or
donor?
Q3.5. Does this investment need to meet any national
environmental standards or requirements?
How to screen aid activities for environmental risks | 2
Environment protection principle 2: assess and
manage environmental risks and impacts
4. Environmental risk categorisation
Where environmental screening indicates the potential for environmental risk (i.e. the
answer to a screening question is yes or unsure), the likelihood of the activity having
a significant impact on the environment should be assessed. Risk categorisation
involves making a determination of the expected impacts of an activity on the
environment. The risk categories and descriptions in Table 2 may assist.
Table 2. Environmental risk categories
Risk
category
Description of risks
Low
Activity is considered to have minimal or no adverse impact (direct or
indirect) on the environment – unlikely to have a significant impact on
the environment. No further action required apart from ongoing
monitoring.
Medium
Activity might have a significant impact on the environment (direct or
indirect), particularly in the absence of mitigation measures. Impacts are
typically local and short-term and are not in environmentally sensitive
areas. Activities where impacts are uncertain are likely to fit into this
category.
High
Activity is likely to have a significant impact on the environment
(direct or indirect), even if mitigation measures are successfully
implemented. Impacts typically affect a large or sensitive geographic
area or have permanent and long-lasting effects.
Referral to the Environment Minister is required if the activity is not
able to be modified to avoid significant impact on the environment.
For guidance on how to determine a ‘significant impact’ see the Department of
Environment’s Significant impact guidelines 1.2 - Actions on, or impacting upon,
Commonwealth land and Actions by Commonwealth Agencies 2013 (“Significant
impact guidelines). See also Good Practice note 2.3 How to assess significant
impacts and environmental risks resulting from an aid activity.
How to screen aid activities for environmental risks | 3
Environment protection principle 2: assess and
manage environmental risks and impacts
5. Next steps
The next steps after screening are mapped out in the following flow chart:
Screening
Low risk
No further action
except normal
risk monitoring
and due diligence
Medium or high
risk
Must assess
environmental
risks and plan to
avoid, manage
and monitor
medium to high
If significant risk
is still likely
Must get help
regarding referral
and possible
further
assessment
If your activity is medium to high risk, you must arrange for an assessment of
environmental risks, and engage the expertise needed to conduct it.
This assessment would usually be done during design and be accompanied by an
environmental management plan to avoid risks, and to reduce, manage, monitor and
report on unavoidable risks.
If at the end of this process, a significant environmental impact is still considered
likely, the activity must be referred to the Minister for the Environment for advice. The
Environmental Safeguards Section will guide you through this process.
6. You are following good practice if you:

Answer the screening questions early in investment concept development

Categorise to risks to the environment, informed by the Significant Impact
guidelines, before a concept is approved

Follow the instructions for what to do next if your aid activity has a medium to
high risk of causing a significant environmental impact.
Get help if you are unsure
Contact the Environment Safeguards Section: [email protected]
How to screen aid activities for environmental risks | 4
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