Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) represents an integral part of procedures applied by authorities when deciding upon the admissibility of projects. EIA covers the identification, description, and evaluation of the environmental impacts that ensue from the implementation of planning on: human beings, animals and plants, soil, water, air, climate, and landscape, including interactions between these protected assets and cultural heritage and other material assets Environmental impact assessment is conducted with public participation.
EIA is governed by the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, which derives from the EU Directive 85/337/EEC. An annex to the act lists all of the projects and activities are subject to EIA. EIA is thus primarily and important tool in preventive environmental protection. It helps to prevent, reduce or mitigate the adverse environmental effects associated with a project by subjecting the proposal to systematic, prior scrutiny according to a set of defined minimum procedural and material standards.
EIA is concerned with both whether a proposed project should be allowed to proceed, and with the manner in which it is to be implemented. By requiring co-operation between developers, public authorities and the general public, EIA also puts into practice the principle of cooperative planning. As a precautionary tool, EIA is characterised by the integrative approach it adopts and by the principle of early appraisal. In addition to environmental impact assessment for evaluating projects, German planning law (also pursuant to an EU directive) provides for so-called strategic environmental assessment, which is prescribed for all spatial structure plans, preparatory land-use plans and binding land-use plans.