Time for a New Approach to Environmental Assessments: Promoting Cooperation and Consensus for Sustainability

Document Type


Publication Date



Environmental Assessment, Public Participation, Sustainability, Proposed Participatory Process


One of the fundamental challenges of project based environmental assessments (EA) has been to deliver on the promise of meaningful public participation leading to decisions that put affected societies on the path to sustainability. The record to date has been less than promising, leading the authors to propose that it is time to consider a different approach to legislating public participation in project assessments, one that starts with the ultimate objective of cooperation and consensus building. The authors work back from this objective and propose an EA process specifically designed to encourage all participants to participate constructively. In the process, the authors identify how the proposed process will address various criticisms made of the traditional approach to EA by proponents, government officials and members of the public alike. Through a fundamental shift from process requirements to a focus on the outcomes of EA, the authors propose a way forward for project based EA to deliver on the promise of becoming a central tool on the path to sustainability.