Avoidance measurement is a complex process particularly when project-development-cancellation occurs. This is difficult to monitor because ‘no action’ in one place could result in impacts occurring elsewhere, in light of new projects being developed due to the cancellation. Avoidance could also occur in the preliminary stages outside of any regulatory control and therefore not be documented. Adequate evaluation requires the characterisation of avoidance measures responding to four key questions:
- What is avoided?
- How is the impact avoided?
- Why the avoidance takes place?
- Who is responsible for this avoidance?
Developers should improve the monitoring of avoidance throughout a project’s shelf life using these four questions as a guide. Consultative processes with stakeholders and regulators through SEAs and EIAs should commence as soon as possible in the project design, and any avoidance measure applied should be well documented through the project life cycle.
Avoidance is currently completed through an assessment analysis that includes different possible scenarios for each project. It is therefore a quantitative assessment undertaken by the regulator, and is based on the EIA results. To improve this assessment, developers should use uniform metrics, such as the area of natural habitats protected or not modified, the number of targeted species, what impacts are being avoided in the project design. The characterisation of different avoidance measures is highly dependent on the existing regulations and the quantity and precision of their prescriptions. Thus, national guidelines in line with EU recommendations should be developed to standardise avoidance measurement metrics and the relevant methodologies for their assessment.
Measuring and monitoring Avoidance at a larger scale
Some initiatives to monitor locations where avoidance has been applied have been developed in response to the need to implement a more effective avoidance larger scales. Because avoidance is implemented project-per-project and is therefore the responsibility of each developer, a place avoided by one project may later be developed by another. To prevent this occurring, some authorities intend to develop tools to monitor avoidance measures, although no operative tracking- system exists to date. Thus, the operational measurement and monitoring of avoidance still relies on the inclusion of all stakeholders (including government officials), as well as efforts to ensure a transparent project development decision-making process. For this reason, starting the consultation process with all stakeholders as early as possible remains the most efficient way to implement effective avoidance at a larger scale.