Virtual Forum Series:

Think Big

A Cleaner, Greener Covid-19 Recovery

Recordings are available for each session on the right.

Think BIG a cleaner, greener COVID-19 Recovery

As nations around the world begin to invest trillions of dollars post-pandemic in infrastructure, will these projects be evaluated under scaled-back environmental and social regulations, using the justification that rapid actions are needed for economic recovery? Or will they be evaluated under the legal structures that were already weakened pre-COVID?  Will the economic development projects that are approved be the same unsustainable ones that contributed to global climate change in the pre-pandemic era and provided the opportunity for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 to develop? 

Because the best defense is a good offense, the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) and the Earth Law Center (ELC) are partnering to offer a six-part Virtual Forum on this issue. It is not sufficient for impact assessment to simply snap back to its pre-COVID state, so this Virtual Forum aims to help define the future directions of impact assessment. It will highlight recent challenges to impact assessment, but more importantly, it will support a "Think Big" vision – an agenda that considers both climate change aspects and ecocentric perspectives so that we do not just recover to where we were but improve from where we have been.

Impact assessment is an essential, comprehensive tool for strategic and local planning of projects, policies, and programs because it identifies alternatives, seeks to mitigate adverse impacts, and incorporates monitoring plans and strategies. However, as a decision-making process, impact assessment has been under stress around the globe for decades by those who value short-term results over long-term benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges to impact assessment by, in some cases, reducing the ability to get into the field to gather data and actively engage affected parties – a critical component to the process. 

Even in the best of situations, when impact assessment attempts to fairly balance environmental, economic, and social concerns, it rarely employs ecocentric perspectives that result in significant alterations to development plans. One way for impact assessment to become truly transformative is for the practice to adopt a more fully-integrated consideration of ecosystem health, and for laws to be enacted that recognize Nature's right to exist and thrive in harmony with humanity.

Presentations from the impact assessment profession and the legal community on decarbonization and ecocentric perspectives will provide insights into how impact assessment can more fully address rights of nature, biodiversity, and global climate change as the world recovers from COVID-19. There will be five weekly sessions with presentations and Q&A, and the sixth and final session will be a panel discussion bringing some of the presenters together to discuss how impact assessment can ensure smart decisions for a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery.