Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment defines environmental assessment as the preparation of an environmental report, the carrying out of consultations, the taking into account of the environmental report and the results of the consultations in decision-making and the provision of information on the decision in accordance with relevant provisions of the Directive. The Directive was to be transposed into national law by member states by 20th July 2004. In Germany, it was transposed by the EAG Bau (European Law Adaptation Act for the Construction Sector) for urban land-use planning and spatial planning and by the SUPG (Act on the Introduction of Strategic Environmental Assessment and Implementation of Directive 2001/42/EG) for other categories of planning.
The key elements in environmental assessment are the identification, description, and evaluation of the considerable environmental impacts that ensue from the implementation of planning. They include effects on biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape, and on interaction between the factors mentioned. An environmental report is required to provide more detailed information on environmental impacts. The pertinent public authorities are to be consulted on the extent and depth of environmental assessment. Furthermore, public authorities and the public at large are to be given the opportunity to state their views on the draft plan and on the accompanying environmental report. Both the environmental report and comments are to be taken into account in preparing and adopting the plan. Over and above this, environmental assessment has no binding effect. In Germany, environmental assessment is required for all spatial structure plans, and for preparatory and binding land-use plans.