Transboundary environmental impact assessments: Espoo Convention

Official title: UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention)

Subject category:
Environmental Cooperation
Type of agreement / instrument:
Multilateral
Form:
Legally-binding treaty
Status:
  • Signed by Canada: February 26, 1991
  • Ratified by Canada: May 13, 1998
  • In force in Canada: August 11, 1998
  • In force internationally: September 10, 1997
  • The commitments related to this agreement are ongoing.
Lead & partner departments:
Lead:
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
For further information:
Web links:
Contacts:
CEAA Inquiry Centre
Compendium edition:
October 2018
Reference #:
A41/EN

Plain language summary

The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of the Parties to assess the potential environmental effects of certain projects and to notify and consult with other States before decisions are made.

The Convention was an innovative international instrument that was developed at a time when the concept of environmental impact assessment was relatively new. Its elements remain sound today.

The Convention has influenced the development of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes in many countries as well as other international agreements related to environmental protection and public participation.  

Objective

The objective of the Espoo Convention is to extend assessments across borders between Parties of the Convention when a planned activity may cause significant adverse transboundary impacts.

Key elements

The Espoo Convention requires that Parties assess the environmental impacts of certain activities at an early stage of planning; provide to the government and public of an affected country an opportunity to participate in the assessment; and ensure that the results of the assessment are taken into account in the final decision about the project.

Expected results

This agreement is expected to:

  • minimize significant adverse transboundary environmental impacts of certain projects; and
  • enhance international cooperation in assessing environmental impacts in a transboundary context.

Canada’s involvement

Canada played a key role during the development of the Espoo Convention and continues to be an advocate for strengthening international transboundary notification and environmental assessment processes.

Canada would use its existing environmental assessment processes to implement the requirements of the Espoo Convention if a project had the potential for transboundary impacts for other Parties to the Convention.

Results / progress

Activities

No projects subject to the Espoo Convention have been identified to date. The Convention currently has limited application in Canada since the only neighbouring countries that are Parties to the Convention are Denmark (Greenland) and France (St. Pierre and Miquelon).

Reports

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agencyhas provided tri-annual reports to the Secretary of the Espoo Convention.  The tri-annual reports submitted by the Parties to the Espoo Convention are used as the basis to prepare the Review of Implementation report. The Canadian questionnaires and the Review of Implementation reports can be found at the UNECE’s website.

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