9 Jan /13

Making an impact

environmental impactLegislative review can bring laws to life for the 21st century, making them more relevant and fundamentally more just. Such a review is currently provoking debate in the field of environmental impact assessment.

Gauging the environmental, social and economic consequences of a project forms an important part of the planning process, and the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) has active members in over 120 countries. In Europe, the prevailing EIA directive has been in force since 1985 and it’s this statute that is under review. When the process is complete it’s widely hoped that legislators and legal professionals will be better equipped than ever before to assess all aspects of a project’s impact. The law is undergoing an EU-wide revision and with 27 countries to consider, legislators have their work cut out to deliver consistency. Environmental impact assessments are intended to anticipate “major” impacts on a project’s surrounding area, and while that term is open to interpretation the differences in opinion from one EU member state to the next can be striking. One country’s assessment of small projects with negligible impact can invoke a mountain of unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy while in a neighbouring country a project might proceed unfettered with enormous and long lasting consequences.

One aspect of British justice that has gained positive attention in this field is the preservation of the voice of the “little man”. To take one example, when an environmental protestor objected to a new development near Hampton Court, the court hearing his case set a limit on his costs. The judge had no desire to see a dissenting voice silenced due to lack of resources. The importance of playing fair and being seen to play fair with environmental activists is clear.

The importance of seeing the big economic picture is just as obvious. While environmental considerations can’t be ignored, planning decisions have often been approved on the basis of their positive impact on local job markets. Decision makers would need to have compelling reasons to turn their backs on large scale employment opportunities for any given region. Is it possible to balance eco-friendliness with economy-friendly job creation? We certainly hope so.

It’s fair to say that the ethical and legal consequences of environmental negligence have never been clearer. EVS Translations has kept a finger on the global pulse by managing countless legal translation projects, supporting our partners in their often delicate legal and linguistic balancing act. Whatever the final form of the revised legislation, the talent and diligence of the legal profession will be in constant demand in 2013 and we look forward to playing our part worldwide, helping clients communicate their message with precisely the linguistic impact they need.