Financiers should require Developers (and Contractors) to conduct a preliminary scoping assessment for each project’s environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA). Developers (and Contractors) should hire ESIA Consultants to evaluate the scope of each project, develop the stakeholder engagement plan, assist companies in engaging and informing stakeholders, and produce the terms of reference (ToR) for the eventual ESIA report. In order to ensure the objectivity of the ESIA process, these ESIA Consultants should be qualified, experienced, and preferably independent Experts. Once draft and final versions of the scoping study, ToR, and stakeholder engagement plan have been prepared by ESIA Consultants, Developers (and Contractors) should share these documents with Financiers, the Host Country Government, and Subcontractors as well as key stakeholders — including Affected People, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)/Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), the Media, and Researchers/Experts — for consideration, review, and approval.
Scoping studies allow ESIA Consultants to collect and analyze baseline environmental and social data in preparation for in-depth investigations that will be conducted later on in the pre-project planning phase. In addition to outlining potential major environmental and social impacts, the scoping study should highlight Developers’, Contractors’, and ESIA Consultants’ efforts to engage Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, the Media, and Researchers/Experts, as well as their plans to identify and consult additional stakeholders for the ESIA report. Direct engagement with key stakeholders in an inclusive, gender-sensitive, and culturally appropriate manner could follow the public screening meeting during Project Categorization and Screening. However, if a screening meeting was not previously open to the public, Developers, Contractors, and ESIA Consultants should jointly arrange initial project-related meetings to not only inform and consult stakeholders but also to develop mutual understanding of each proposed project among the local people.
For Overseas Projects:
In 2017, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE):1
- Set out plans to introduce standards for Financiers, Developers, and Contractors to undertake “green project scoping” along the BRI.
Developers (and Contractors) should:
- Conduct a scoping assessment and submit information about this assessment within the plans for the on-the-ground ESIA to the ESIA Authority in each host country.2
- Conduct environmental monitoring and assessment to understand baseline conditions of project areas and peripheries.
- Identify environmentally sensitive and vulnerable areas.3
- Record results from monitoring and assessment prior to construction.4
- Hire ESIA Consultants who should be qualified and credible independent third parties.5
- Offset or pay for the cost of an independent scoping assessment.
ESIA Consultants should:6
- Conduct an independent scoping assessment.
- Evaluate the environment of project areas and surroundings through surveys, monitoring, and evaluations before construction. Archive results for future reference.7
- Conduct proper due diligence on existing pollution and environmental footprint at the proposed project site(s).8
- Submit ESIA scoping documents to the Developers (and Contractors).
Developers (and Contractors) should:9
- Submit ESIA scoping documents to the ESIA Authority.
- Establish and improve environmental and social risk management (ESRM) policies.
- Refer to international best practices.
- Carry out due diligence responsibilities for the appropriate category of each Developer, Contractor, and project. See Project Categorization and Screening for information about the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission’s (CBIRC) recommended categories and related requirements.
- Urge Developers and Contractors to strengthen ESRM. Ensure Developers and Contractors abide by host country laws and regulations on environmental protection.
- Consider hiring a professional, independent third party to assess environmental and social risks.
For Domestic Projects in China Only:
Developers (and Contractors) should:
- Disclose the following information on their own websites within seven working days after determining Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Consultants. Send this information to the Media, as well as specific ministries/departments/offices of the Host Country Government in project areas, to post on their websites:11
- Name, proposed site, construction scope, and other basic project information.
- Explanation of current engineering and environmental protection conditions for renovation, expansion, and relocation projects.
- Name(s) of and contact information for Developers (and Contractors).
- Name(s) of EIA Consultant(s).
- A link to the “public opinion form” prepared by MEE, as well as information about how key stakeholders can use and submit this EIA feedback form.
Developers (and Contractors) should:
- Consult with Financiers to determine the process for project scoping, identifying and consulting stakeholders, and assessing and addressing potential environmental and social issues.
- Hire qualified and experienced Experts who did not prepare engineering designs for each proposed project — unless Developers and Contractors can demonstrate that there is no conflict of interest — to serve as ESIA Consultants.
- Ensure ESIA Consultants are independent specialists for higher-risk projects.
- Hire Interpreters who are well versed in local dialect(s) and language(s), including minority and Indigenous languages, to assist in translating oral and/or written communication.
- Arrange a meeting to introduce Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, and other key stakeholders in and around each project site to the ESIA Consultants and provide information about the project.
- Notify key stakeholders of the meeting at least two weeks in advance by sending a formal letter, speaking on the local community radio, posting a message on the community advertising board, and/or sharing a message at the village/town/city/district/provincial hall.
- Review maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, draft and final versions of scoping study, ToR, stakeholder engagement plan, and other technical documents prepared by ESIA Consultants.
- Submit draft and final versions of these materials to Financiers and the ESIA Authority.
- Share draft and final versions of these materials with Contractors (and Subcontractors) for their reference.
- Cover the costs of the venue, printed materials, transportation for attendees, and refreshments for each project-related meeting.
With support from and participation of Developers, Contractors, and National and/or Subnational Government Officials, ESIA Consultants should:
- Undertake a desk review to develop an understanding of the social, cultural, economic, and environmental situation for the local people.
- Determine the scope of the study, including:
- Primary project site(s) and communities potentially affected by the direct and indirect impacts of each project.
- Primary project site(s), as well as power transmission corridors, pipelines, canals, tunnels, access roads, borrow pits and disposal areas, construction camps, and other related facilities controlled by Developers and Contractors.
- Associated facilities with goods or services that would be essential for the successful operation of the project.
- Areas and communities potentially affected by cumulative impacts from future developments related to the project, other sources of similar impacts, and existing projects or conditions.
- Areas and communities potentially affected by impacts from unplanned but predictable developments caused by the project that may occur later or outside of the initial project site(s).
- Collect demographic and environmental baseline data scaled to each project — including its location, design, operation, and mitigation measures. Ensure that sources are accurate, reliable, and current. Identify existing gaps and uncertainties in the baseline information to address in the ESIA.
- Conduct a household-level census or socio-economic survey(s) to identify Affected People (including those eligible for compensation and/or resettlement assistance and vulnerable groups); personal, household, communal, public, and private land/houses/structures/assets/services; and to determine baseline conditions for future comparison to project monitoring results.
- Determine the scale of potential impacts.
- Undertake a preliminary valuation of affected land/structures/assets/services.
- Describe characteristics of affected Indigenous peoples and/or ethnic minorities within the project area, including information about the land/territories/natural resources that they have traditionally owned and customarily used or occupied.
- Identify each project’s potential environmental and social impacts, critical areas for data collection during the ESIA, criteria that the ESIA should cover, project alternatives, mitigation measures, and plans for engaging stakeholders.
- Include this information in the draft scoping study, draft ToR for ESIA, and draft stakeholder engagement plan for each project.
- Consider cumulative impacts of the project coupled with ongoing or proposed developments within the project area of influence.
- Prepare maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, and/or technical documents that describe each project — including its history, context, importance, potential economic and social benefits, boundaries, and limits.
- Collate up-to-date information about potential alternatives, proposed mitigation measures, construction phases and time frames, initial concerns, the process for undertaking the ESIA, plans for stakeholder identification and consultation, an outline of potential environmental and social impacts (including cumulative impacts), and required land.
- Arrange for other appropriate Experts to assist in the explanation of scientific and technical information.
- Hire Interpreters to translate written content into the local dialect(s) and language(s) and/or communicate orally and visually.
- Hold introductory meeting(s) near proposed project site(s) to discuss these materials.
- Provide physical copies of these materials in the local language(s) and dialect(s) for Affected People to keep.
- Submit these materials to Developers and Contractors, as well as national and subnational levels of the Host Country Government.
- Ensure Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, the Media, and Researchers/Experts are fully aware of the project proposal, the ESIA process, plans for future meetings, and potential avenues to provide feedback.
- Maintain a record of meeting issues to incorporate into the scoping study, as well as a list of attendees to include in the stakeholder engagement plan.
- Set potential dates, times, and venues for future meetings (including workshops, forums, and/or focus group discussions) to discuss each project’s draft scoping study, draft ToR, and draft stakeholder engagement plan.
- Notify key stakeholders of meetings at least two weeks in advance.
- Arrange separate meetings for women, Indigenous peoples, minorities, and other vulnerable groups.
- Submit current information about the design of the proposed project, including copies of the draft scoping study, draft ToR, and draft stakeholder engagement plan, to Developers and Contractors, as well as to national and subnational levels of the Host Country Government.
- Provide physical copies of these materials in the local language(s) and dialect(s) for Affected People to keep.
- Consult Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, the Media, and Researchers/Experts on the project design, baseline data collection, potential impacts (especially community, livelihood, environmental, and cultural issues that they would either be knowledgeable about and/or find important), and project alternatives, among other issues in the draft documents. Record their feedback, concerns, and queries, as well as information about local values regarding culture and the environment, to consider internally, incorporate directly into the relevant documents, and address during future meetings.
- Maintain a list of attendees to include in the stakeholder engagement plan.
- Provide key stakeholders adequate time (at least two weeks) to discuss the project with one another and provide feedback directly or anonymously before finalizing the scoping study, ToR, and stakeholder engagement plan for each project.
- Incorporate findings and recommendations from stakeholder consultations into the final scoping study, final ToR, and final stakeholder engagement plan.
- Ensure documents are as complete as possible. Subprojects that have minimal or no adverse environmental or social risks and impacts may not require an ESIA after the initial scoping study.
- Submit the final scoping study, final ToR, and final stakeholder engagement plan to Developers and Contractors, as well as national and subnational levels of the Host Country Government.
Financiers, Developers, the Host Country Government, and the ESIA Authority should:
- Disclose the following materials in the local language(s) and dialect(s) on their websites, at the village/town/city/district/provincial hall, and at the ESIA Authority’s office:
- Maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, and/or technical documents.
- Draft versions of the scoping study, ToR, and stakeholder engagement plan.
- Final versions of the scoping study, ToR, and stakeholder engagement plan.
- Provide avenues for stakeholders to give feedback — both directly and anonymously.
- Disclose the final decision of Financiers and the ESIA Authority in Chinese, English, and the local language(s) and dialect(s) on their own websites.
Financiers and the ESIA Authority should:
- Require scoping as soon as a project is being considered for financing.
- Review draft and final versions of the scoping study, ToR, stakeholder engagement plan, and other documents submitted by Developers, as part of their due diligence responsibilities.
- Request additional and relevant information where there are gaps in the materials.
- Provide guidance to Developers and Contractors on how to develop appropriate mitigation measures consistent with international best practices, such as multilateral development banks’ (MDBs) environmental and social safeguards.
- Decide whether or not to approve each proposed project.12
- Attend scoping meetings (including workshops, forums, and/or focus group discussions).
- Speak with ESIA Consultants about your needs, as well as the land/houses/structures/assets/services that belong to you, your family, or your community.
- Ask about future meetings, as well as separate meetings for women, Indigenous peoples, minorities, and other vulnerable groups.
- Ask Financiers, Developers, Contractors, and the Host Country Government to reimburse transportation costs and cover other costs associated with attendance.
- Maintain a record of your attendance and participation — on either paper or your phone.
- Ask ESIA Consultants to provide physical and/or digital copies of draft and final versions of maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, the scoping study, ToR, stakeholder engagement plan, and other technical documents in your native language. Review these materials.
- Discuss the proposed project with other community members and CSOs/NGOs both during and after the meeting.
- Provide feedback directly or anonymously to Financiers, Developers, Contractors, the Host Country Government, and the ESIA Authority. See Stakeholders to identify some of the available mode(s) of contact.
- If you have not heard about scoping meetings, browse the websites of Financiers and the Host Country Government for information about when and where future scoping meetings will be held, as well as who the ESIA Consultants are and how they can be contacted.
- If any of this information is unavailable, ask Financiers and the officials from the Host Country Government to publicly disclose specific details in your native language.
- If you are unable to directly contact the Financiers and/or the Host Country Government, reach out to a Community Leader or CSO/NGO for assistance.
- If project scoping meeting(s) have already been held, browse the websites of Financiers and the Host Country Government for digital copies of the draft and final versions of maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, scoping study, ToR, stakeholder engagement plan, and other technical documents.
- Set aside time to discuss the materials with other community members and CSOs/NGOs.
- Provide feedback directly or anonymously to Financiers, Developers, Contractors, and the Host Country Government.
- If any of this information is unavailable in your native language, ask Financiers, Developers, Contractors, and the Host Country Government for physical and/or digital copies of translated materials.
Hiring ESIA Consultants to conduct scoping studies, prepare ToR, and engage key stakeholders in public scoping meetings during the pre-project planning phase would:
- Provide a more accurate, complete, and current understanding of baseline conditions, as well as the magnitude of potential environmental and social risks. Prevent Financiers, Developers, Contractors, and the Host Country Government from moving forward with — and funding — projects with irreversible adverse environmental and social impacts.
- Align Financiers, Developers, and Contractors’ practices with Chinese regulations and guidelines on how to conduct project scoping, as well as international best practices.
- Address critical gaps in compliance with host country laws, regulations, and procedures on how to conduct scoping studies and prepare ToR.
- Bolster the objectivity of the ESIA process.
- Enhance Developers’ and Contractors’ awareness of key stakeholders.
- Fully inform key stakeholders of project details relevant to the ESIA process.
- Maintain regular contact between Developers, Contractors, ESIA Consultants, and the Host Country Government on the one hand and local communities, CSOs/NGOs, and other third-party stakeholders on the other.
- Increase transparency and accountability of project-related operations.
- Build trust, understanding, and capacity among local communities, host country stakeholders, and other third-party stakeholders.
- Improve the overall quality of each project. Ensure local and Indigenous knowledge, expertise, and practices inform project planning, decision-making, and implementation.
- Drive people-oriented progress and further green development.
- Reduce the risk of protests, damage, or other forms of conflict during the project implementation and operations phases.
- Curb significant commercial costs from delays caused by social upheaval, especially during the project implementation and operations phases.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Generic Terms of Reference for ESIA/ESMP,” in Social and Environmental Standards Toolkit, October 2016, View the PDF.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Framework Terms of Reference for environmental assessment of development assistance projects” and “Sample Terms of Reference (ToR) for environmental assessment,” in Environmental Impact Assessment Training Resource Manual, Second Edition, 2002, View the PDF.
- International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), “Step 2: Scoping,” in The 7 Steps to an EIA, View the Website.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "ESMS considerations for project design and social baseline study," Guidance Note, Environmental & Social Management System (ESMS), October 2018, View the PDF.
- The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, “Scoping,” in EIA Training Resource Manual for South Eastern Europe, View the PDF.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Topic 3: Public Involvement” and “Topic 5: Scoping,” in Environmental Impact Assessment Training Resource Manual, Second Edition, 2002, View the PDF.
- Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc., "EIANZ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct," December 2021, View the Website.
- Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), “Terms of Reference, Public Scoping, Public Review of TOR, Public Participation Opportunities,” in EIA Complete Factors, View the Website.
- International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), "Vision, Mission, Values, Professional Code of Conduct, and Ethical Responsibilities," View the PDF.
1 Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) (now Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE)), “The Belt and Road Ecological and Environmental Cooperation Plan,” May 2017.
2 Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), “Cobalt Refiner Supply Chain Due Diligence Standard (version 2.0),” 2021; China Chamber of Commerce Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC), “Chinese Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains,” 2015.
3 MEP et al., “Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road,” 2017; MEP, “Ecological and Environmental Cooperation,” 2017.
4 Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and MEE, “Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation,” 2013.
5 RCI and RMI, “Cobalt Refiner Supply.”
7 MOFCOM and MEE, “Guidelines for Ecological Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment Cooperation and Construction Projects,” January 2022.
8 MOFCOM and MEE, “Investment Cooperation and Construction Projects.”
9 RCI and RMI, “Cobalt Refiner Supply.”
10 China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) (now China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC)), “Key Performance Indicators of Green Credit Implementation,” 2014.
12 International Best Practice is based on Asian Development Bank (ADB), "Safeguard Policy Statement," 2009; Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), "Environmental and Social Framework," 2021; World Bank, "Environmental and Social Framework," 2018; Mekong Partnership for the Environment, "Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment in the Mekong Region," First Edition, 2017.