Global megatrends and their implications for environmental assessment practice

Francois Retief, Alan Bond, Jenny Pope, Angus Morrison-Saunders, Nicholas King

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98 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper addresses the future of environmental assessment (EA) practice in light of a rapidly changing world. We apply a literature review-based methodology to firstly identify key global megatrends and then reflect upon the implications for EA practice based on some known challenges. The key megatrends identified are synthesised into six categories: i) demographics, ii) urbanization, iii) technological innovation, iv) power shifts, v) resource scarcity and vi) climate change. We then discuss the implications of these megatrends for EA practice against four known EA challenges namely: dealing with i) complexity and uncertainty, ii) efficiency, iii) significance and iv) communication and participation. Our analysis suggests important implications for EA practice such as: increased difficulties with accuracy of prediction; the need for facilitative adaptation; an increase in the occurrence of unexpected events; higher expectations for procedural efficiency; challenges with information and communication management; dealing with significance judgements; and mitigation amidst resource scarcity and increasing pressures on earth systems. The megatrends underscore the need for continued evolution of EA thinking and practice, especially moving away from seeking a predictable single future or outcome towards the possibility of multiple scenarios with associated adaptability and enhanced system resilience capable of responding to rapid change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Early online date31 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • environmental assessment
  • megatrends
  • challenges
  • value
  • effectiveness
  • uncertainty
  • complexity
  • efficiency
  • significance
  • communication
  • participation
  • EA practice
  • future of EA

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