Review of and Decision on ESIA and ESMP
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Authority should review and make a decision on the ESIA report and the environmental and social management plan (ESMP) in a comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent manner. In certain BRI host countries, the Host Country Government may defer the responsibility of examining ESIAs to an independent ESIA Authority with publicly available information about the procedures that are routinely carried out by Experts. However, in other countries, the Host Country Government may require one of its agencies to undertake the review — potentially in collaboration with representatives of other government agencies or relevant technical Experts. Since this process varies across countries and depends on the nature of the ESIA Authority, it is important to review the most up-to-date laws and regulations of each BRI host country.
During the pre-project planning phase, the ESIA Authority should provide the Affected People, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)/Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), the Media, Researchers/Experts, and other key stakeholders with adequate time to submit comments. Even with stakeholder feedback and documentation from Developers and Contractors at their disposal, representatives of the ESIA Authority may elect to conduct a supplementary assessment to validate the findings and recommendations in the ESIA report and the ESMP. The ESIA Authority in host countries retains the power to permit projects to proceed as proposed by Developers and Contractors, request information where there are gaps, require major or minor changes to projects, or force Developers and Contractors to abandon projects for certain reasons.
As part of their own robust environmental and social due diligence, Financiers should engage Experts in the examination of each ESIA report and ESMP — independent of the ESIA Authority’s process in host countries. Financiers may decide to approve of projects for funding, request additional information, specify changes for projects to be eligible for funding, or deny financial support for projects with extreme and irreversible adverse impacts on the local society, economy, and environment.
A public review of each ESIA report and ESMP ensures that the ESIA Authority and Financiers can come to an informed decision on the corresponding project. Establishing readily accessible, gender-sensitive, and culturally appropriate avenues for queries/concerns/complaints from Affected People, among other key stakeholders, allows the ESIA Authority and Financiers to form a more complete understanding of a project’s impacts and risks, as well as corresponding mitigation and monitoring measures. Having developed communication channels throughout the pre-project planning phase, Developers and Contractors could directly share information with key stakeholders about the ESIA Authority’s and Financiers’ processes for reviewing and deciding on the ESIA and ESMP. Upon the release of their decisions, both the ESIA Authority and Financiers should allow key stakeholders to submit appeals for a follow-up review.
For Overseas Projects:
Developers and Contractors should:
- File environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports for approval with the local ESIA Authority in accordance with host country laws and regulations.1
The Chinese Government and Financiers should:2
- Incorporate companies’ environmental information into the financial credit information database. Share information to support loan and investment decision-making processes.
- Propose suggestions and clarify requirements for due diligence based on Chinese laws, as well as host country conditions and international experiences.
Local China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) Offices should:3
- Facilitate Financiers’ investigations into Developers’ and Contractors’ environmental and social risks.
- Require Developers (and Contractors) to submit ESIAs or other “compliance examination documents” that address impacts on Affected People, as well as companies’ measures to communicate with local communities, the Media, and environmental CSOs/NGOs.4
- Conduct in-depth environmental and social due diligence based on ESIAs before lending.5
- Closely review the “authenticity, representativeness, [procedural] compliance … and validity of community involvement.”6
- Fully consider factors of resource conservation and environmental protection when providing credit support.7
- Explore ways to conduct environmental stress tests of investment decisions.8
- Veto funding allocation to projects that fail to meet environmental and social requirements.9
- Incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into credit risk assessments and investment decision-making.10
- Suspend or withdraw funding commitments from proposed projects with major risks or dangers.
- Disclose an environmental impact summary before investing in each project.11
- Include environmental and social responsibilities in loan contracts with Developers and Contractors.12
For Domestic Projects in China Only
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and the Environmental Protection Departments should:
- Prepare and determine the content and format of the public opinion form.13
- Inform Affected People and other key stakeholders of their right to request a hearing before accepting each EIA report.14
- Examine EIA reports by using the following criteria, including whether:15
- The project, as well as its site selection, layout, and scale, complies with laws and regulations on environmental protection and resource utilization.
- The environmental quality of the project site meets zoning and pollutant discharge control requirements, as well as regional environmental quality improvement targets.
- Pollution control measures could be adopted to meet national and local standards.
- Effective preventive measures have been proposed.
- The quality and content of the EIA report meet other requirements.
Developers and Contractors should:
- Disclose information about formal methods or channels for the public to submit comments after the MEE accepts the EIA report for review.16
- Share the link to the public opinion form; the scope of public opinions; and the methods, approaches, and time frame for providing input.17
Local Governments should:
- Conduct supplementary EIAs for projects concerning the use of land, drainage areas, or sea areas.18
- Evaluate projects’ environmental impacts.
- Prepare written reports, which should include an analysis and assessment of potential environmental impacts, mitigation measures, and conclusions.
- Submit these written reports to other authorities for review and approval.
Environmental Protection Departments should:
- Create and publish a directory of EIAs for construction projects.19
- Ensure that neither independent EIA Consultants nor Developers have any conflict of interest with their departments.20
- Hold demonstration meetings or hearings and collect the opinions of Affected People, Experts, and other stakeholders in case proposed projects could damage the environment and harm the rights and interests of the public.21
- Specify reasons for accepting or rejecting comments and suggestions offered by Experts and the public as part of their review.
- Review EIAs for the following types of construction projects:
- Projects of a special nature.
- Projects spanning multiple regions.
- Projects subject to examination and approval by the State Council.
- Projects subject to examination and approval by a department authorized by the State Council.22
- Call an Examination Group of specialists randomly selected from a preapproved list to examine the EIA report.23
- Decide on each project's environmental impacts and relevant opinions after their examination.
- Reject construction projects that fail to:24
- Comply with environmental protection laws and regulations.
- Meet local and national emissions standards.
- Take measures to prevent environmental damage.
- Either report any data on environmental impacts or falsify this information.
- Prepare a written decision within the following time frames:25
- 60 days after receiving an EIA report.
- 30 days after receiving an EIA form.
- Disclose EIA documentation, such as EIA acceptance documents, an abbreviated version of the EIA, and approved results, after completing each review.26
Developers and Contractors should:
- Implement mitigation measures included in the relevant Environmental Protection Department’s comments and suggestions from the EIA examination and approval.27
- Not commence construction of a project if its EIA has not been reviewed and approved by the Examination and Approval Department in accordance with the law, or if the report was rejected upon examination.28
During the pre-project planning phase, the Host Country’s ESIA Authority and Financiers should:
- Disclose information about how their official ESIA decision-making process is undertaken and who the official decision-maker is (e.g., a particular minister or a department head in the Host Country Government or the board of a Financier).
- Ensure that the public is able to follow the entire process, including the final decision and rationale.
- Ensure that the Agencies/Experts reviewing the ESIA report, the ESMP, and relevant documentation do not have any conflict of interest.
- An independent ESIA Authority in host countries should assemble a team of scientific/technical experts or select a specific expert to conduct the review.
- An ESIA Authority under the Host Country Government should identify representatives of Relevant Government Agencies and/or randomly select Experts from their preapproved list to participate in this process.
- Financiers should place a department or team of scientific/technical Experts in charge of the review.
- Publicize the timing and other specific information for the review of the ESIA and ESMP in local media outlets.
- Post updates on the review on their websites and social media accounts in Chinese, English, and the local dialect(s) and language(s).
- Cover costs associated with supplementary site visits, consultations, assessments, and other aspects of the review and decision-making processes.
Experts designated by the ESIA Authority or Relevant Agencies should:
- Conduct visits and inspections at the project site(s).
- Notify Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, and other key stakeholders of their visits and inspections 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, or sharing a message at the village/town/city/district/provincial hall.
- Inform these stakeholders of the purpose of their review. Outline the process for the ESIA Authority to make decisions on the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Engage with Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, and other key stakeholders. Allow key stakeholders to discuss the ESIA report and the ESMP and share their views.
- Ensure that Affected People not only have physical and/or digital copies of the current ESIA and ESMP but also understand the findings, analysis, and recommendations in these documents.
- Maintain a record of stakeholders consulted during these visits.
- Attend the public presentation of the ESIA report and the ESMP. See Disclosure of Draft and Final Versions of ESIA and ESMP for information about this presentation.
- Record both written and verbal comments from the presentation meeting.
- Summarize all of these comments for public review. Disclose all of this feedback in the local language(s) and dialect(s) on the ESIA Authority’s website.
- Ensure that a nontechnical summary report, the ESIA report, the ESMP, plans for compensation and resettlement, the scoping study, the approved terms of reference (ToR), and the stakeholder engagement plan have been shared with Affected People and other key stakeholders.
- Formally invite Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, and other key stakeholders to submit concerns/complaints/queries regarding the project proposal, the ESIA and ESMP, compensation offers, and other aspects of each project.
- Provide stakeholders adequate time to carefully review these documents and consider their contents.
- Offer multiple avenues including, but not limited to, a public hearing and a grievance mechanism for stakeholders to submit concerns/complaints/queries. Ensure that such avenues are accessible to Indigenous peoples, minorities, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable or disadvantaged groups.
- Disclose an anonymized version of each concern/complaint/query on the ESIA Authority’s website.
- Respond to each concern/complaint/query. Work with Interpreters to translate these responses into the local language(s) and dialect(s).
- Share responses directly with complainants when they provide their contact information.
- Take adequate time to review the ESIA report and the ESMP in accordance with host country laws and regulations for each project.
- Ensure these documents are complete, accurate, and aligned with the scoping study, ToR, and stakeholder engagement plan.
- Assess the level and quality of stakeholder engagement that was undertaken earlier in the pre-project planning phase and is being proposed for the project implementation and operations phases.
- Examine how Developers and ESIA Consultants explicitly addressed the views of Affected People and other key stakeholders within the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Identify whether communities have either given their formal consent or collectively agreed on the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- If the project has potential impacts on and risks to Indigenous peoples, ensure that these communities have given their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for both documents.
- Carefully review the ESIA Consultants’ methods, data, interpretations, measures, and conclusions. Analyze gaps in these components within the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Satisfactory documents should identify all of the environmental and social issues; offer appropriate mitigation measures; involve inclusive stakeholder engagement and consultation; and include proper methods, valid data, and clear interpretations as well as conclusions.
- Determine the effectiveness of mitigation measures in addressing adverse impacts and risks.
- Evaluate attachments to the ESMP, such as the land acquisition and resettlement plan (LARP), livelihood restoration plan (LRP), and Indigenous peoples plan (IPP) submitted by Developers, ESIA Consultants, and/or the Host Country Government.
- Consider the value of benefits to Affected People from project commitments proposed in the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Request more information about projects’ impacts, mitigation measures, and other plans from Developers and ESIA Consultants.
- Postpone decisions until critical project details are available in the ESIA report or the ESMP.
- Conduct a separate ESIA to validate the contents of the ESIA report and the ESMP submitted by Developers for each project.
- Procedures and requirements for this process will vary by host country. See Preparation and Implementation of ESIA and Preparation and Implementation of ESMP for more insight into this process.
- Compare their findings and proposed mitigation measures with the contents of Developers’ ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Prepare a recommendation on the decision for each project that summarizes:
- Issues in the Developers’ ESIA report and the ESMP.
- The level and quality of stakeholder engagement by Developers, Contractors, and ESIA Consultants.
- The ways in which Affected People’s and other key stakeholders’ views were not only incorporated into the ESIA report and the ESMP but also included in the overall review of and decision on the ESIA and ESMP.
- The process of coordinating the public review and collecting key stakeholders’ feedback.
- Where applicable, potential means for Developers to address gaps in compliance and/or make changes to the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Share this recommendation with the decision-maker in the ESIA Authority for each project.
Experts designated by Financiers should:
- Review the ESIA report, the ESMP, and other relevant documentation supplied by Developers and Contractors for each project to determine whether:
- All potential environmental and social risks and impacts have been identified.
- Effective mitigation measures have been incorporated into final project designs and the ESMP.
- Developers and Contractors have demonstrated an understanding of, commitment to, and capacity for environmental and social management.
- The roles and responsibilities of the Host Country Government and other key stakeholders are fully defined in the ESMP.
- Affected People were properly informed and consulted throughout the ESIA process.
- Documents align with host country laws and regulations, as well as internal policies and international best practices.
- The institutional responsibilities for and costs of mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures have been explained.
- Mitigation, monitoring, and reporting activities have been appropriately laid out in the implementation schedule.
- Assess the significance of gaps in information for the completion of their own due diligence.
- Request more information about projects’ impacts, mitigation measures, and other plans from Developers (and Contractors).
- Consider the potential risks that these gaps could present to project implementation and operations.
- Include gap analyses in project documents and agreements.
- If a project’s documents do not adequately meet host country, internal, and international provisions, require Developers and Contractors to undertake some or all of the following activities within a specified time frame:
- Carry out supplemental ESIAs.
- Bolster existing ESIAs with additional data collection or validation.
- Strengthen the depth of the ESIA report and/or the ESMP.
- Organize additional meetings to inform and consult stakeholders — potentially with participation of representatives of Financiers.
- Hire qualified and experienced Experts recommended by Financiers to assist in these activities.
- Evaluate the risks and impacts of each proposed project based on information provided by Developers, the project type and contexts, and Developers’ and Contractors’ abilities to implement the project in accordance with the ESMP.
- Offer guidance to Developers and Contractors on improving mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures in the ESMP.
- Compile and prepare, as needed, the following documentation for submission to the Financiers’ official decision-maker for each project:
- The initial environmental and social categorization.
- A description of applicable environmental and social requirements in host country laws and regulations and internal policies.
- A summary of their own due diligence for environmental and social assessment and management (ESAM).
- An evaluation of Developers’ and Contractors’ capacities to manage environmental and social risks and impacts.
- A description of how Developers (and Contractors) incorporated Affected People’s, CSO/NGOs’, and other key stakeholders’ comments and concerns into each project’s ESIA report, ESMP, designs, agreements, and other relevant documentation.
- An explanation of how Developers’ and Contractors’ ESAM systems differ from internal policies and international best practices.
- A proposed plan of measures to fill gaps in ESAM systems.
- A proposed plan for environmental and social monitoring.
The ESIA Authority and Financiers should:
- Conduct a final review of all available documentation.
- Request additional information where there are remaining gaps in materials.
- Decide to approve, require changes to, or reject the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Publicize their decisions on the ESIA report and the ESMP in local media outlets.
- Post an update on their decisions on their websites and social media accounts in Chinese, English, and the local dialect(s) and language(s).
- Disclose a summary that explains their decision and the rationale on their websites and at the village/town/city/district/provincial hall.
- For ESIAs that were approved or require changes for approval, describe the conditions attached to this approval.
- Directly inform Affected People and other key stakeholders of their decision.
- Offer an appeals process for Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, Experts, and other members of the public to submit concerns/complaints/queries regarding the ESIA Authority’s decision.
- Offer an appeals process to Developers and Contractors if ESIAs have been rejected.
- Allow Developers and Contractors to revise the ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Ensure that Affected People and other members of the public are involved in the revision process.
Developers (and Contractors) should:
- Respond to queries/concerns/complaints from Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, Experts, ESIA Authority, Financiers, and other key stakeholders.
- For ESIA reports and ESMPs that require changes, make revisions in accordance with comments from Affected People, CSOs/NGOs, Experts, ESIA Authority, Financiers, and other key stakeholders.
- Submit the revised ESIA report and ESMP to the ESIA Authority and Financiers for review.
- Publicly disclose the report in accordance with Disclosure of Draft and Final Versions of ESIA and ESMP.
- For rejected ESIA reports and ESMPs, decide to either move away from the project or submit an appeal to the ESIA Authority.
- Engage Affected People and other key stakeholders throughout the appeals and report revision processes.
Relevant Agencies of the Host Country Government should:
- Produce the environmental and social compliance certificate, necessary permits, or other required documentation for each approved project in accordance with host country laws and regulations.
- Prepare project financing agreements and relevant documents for approved projects that include the following information:
- Their assessment of the ESIA report, the ESMP, and the overall project.
- Specific provisions, including estimated costs and time frames, for required ESAM activities.
- Remedies for noncompliance by Developers and Contractors.29
- Browse the websites of Financiers, the Host Country Government, and the ESIA Authority for information about their own laws, regulations, and procedures for the review of and decision on the ESIA report and the ESMP of proposed projects.
- Review the record of public comments posted online, as well as responses from the ESIA Authority.
- 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. See Stakeholders to identify some of the available mode(s) of contact.
- Browse the websites of Contractors, Developers, Financiers, the ESIA Authority, and the Host Country Government for digital copies of the draft and final versions of maps, drawings, charts, diagrams, brochures, scoping study, stakeholder engagement plan, ESIA report, the ESMP, and other technical documents, as well as public comments, in your native language.
- Set aside time to discuss the materials with other community members, CSOs/NGOs, and appropriate Experts.
- Collectively agree on, request changes to, or reject the ESIA report and the ESMP as a community. For Indigenous peoples, give — or withhold — FPIC for a project’s ESIA report and the ESMP.
- Provide feedback directly or anonymously to Financiers and the ESIA Authority. See Stakeholders to identify the available mode(s) of contact.
- Reiterate important issues, add new insights, or offer counterpoints. Request a response.
- Maintain a record of the content, date, and time of your submission.
- 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.
- Regularly check the websites of Financiers, the Host Country Government, and the ESIA Authority for updates on their decision-making processes.
- Review the final decision.
- If issues that you raised remain unaddressed, prepare an appeal in collaboration with your community, CSOs/NGOs, and Experts in a timely manner.
- After a decision has been released, review Financiers’, Developers’, Contractors’, the Host Country Government’s, and the ESIA Authority’s compliance with governmental, industry-specific, and internal policies, procedures, and guidelines for due diligence and investment decision-making.
- Review Financiers’ compliance with CBIRC’s “Opinions on Green Credit Implementation” and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) et al.’s “Guidelines for Establishing the Green Financial System.” Submit concerns or complaints about Financiers’ noncompliance with these guidelines to CBIRC and PBOC.
- Submit queries/concerns/complaints about noncompliance with other policies, procedures, or guidelines to the appropriate actor.
Making decisions on both the ESIA report and ESMP informed by comprehensive reviews by Experts and input from the public during the pre-project planning phase would:
- Advance high-quality development along the BRI. 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 for BRI projects with Chinese laws, policies, and guidelines for reviewing and approving of both the ESIA and ESMP, as well as international best practices.
- Bolster Developers’, Contractors’, and the Host Country Government’s awareness of key stakeholders.
- Ensure key stakeholders are fully informed of the ESIA report and the ESMP, as well as their bearing on the overall project.
- Build trust, understanding, and capacity among local communities, host country stakeholders, and other third-party stakeholders.
- Increase transparency, accountability, and objectivity of project-related operations, especially surrounding the ESIA and the ESMP.
- Improve the overall quality of each ESIA report, ESMP, and project. Ensure local and Indigenous knowledge, expertise, and practices inform project planning, decision-making, implementation, and operations.
- 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.
Providing convenient, free, and public access to stakeholders’ anonymized comments, as well as Financiers’ and the ESIA Authority’s decisions on the ESIA and the ESMP, throughout the project life cycle would:
- Promote transparency and accountability of project-related operations.
- Foster trust among local communities, host country stakeholders, and other third-party stakeholders.
- Encourage the fulfillment of promises, commitments, and requirements on environmental and social assessment and management determined in the pre-project planning phase
- International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), “Step 6: Review and Licensing,” in The 7 Steps to an EIA, View the Website.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Topic 9: Review of EIA Quality,” in Environmental Impact Assessment Training Resource Manual, 2002, View the PDF.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Topic 10: Decision-making,” Environmental Impact Assessment Training Resource Manual, 2002, View the PDF.
1 China International Contractors Association (CHINCA) and Dagong Global Credit Rating, “Guidelines of Sustainable Infrastructure for Chinese International Contractors (SIG),” 2017.
2 People's Bank of China (PBOC) et al., “Guidelines for Establishing the Green Financial System,” August 2016.
3 China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) and China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) (now China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC)), “General Office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission Opinions on Green Credit Implementation,” 2013.
4 Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank), “White Paper on Green Finance and Social Responsibility,” 2019.
5 Green Finance Committee (GFC) of China Society for Finance and Banking et al., “Environmental Risk Management Initiative for China’s Overseas Investment,” 2017; CBRC and CIRC, “Opinions on Green Credit;" Green Finance Initiative and GFC, “Green Investment Principles (GIP) for the Belt and Road,” 2018; Bank of China Hong Kong (BOCHK), “Sustainability Policy,” 2021.
6 China Exim Bank, “White Paper.”
7 China Exim Bank, “Guidelines for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for Project Loans of the China Export and Import Bank,” 2007.
8 Green Finance Initiative and GFC, “Green Investment Principles.”
9 China Exim Bank, “White Paper;” CBIRC, “Key Performance Indicators of Green Credit Implementation,” 2014.
10 GFC et al., “Environmental Risk Management;” PBOC, “Green Financial System;” Green Finance Initiative and GFC, “Green Investment Principles.”
11 GFC et al., “Environmental Risk Management.”
12 China Exim Bank, “Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.”
17 MEE, “Measures for Public Participation.”
18 Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, “Amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Law of the People's Republic of China,” 2016; Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, “Environmental Impact Assessment Law of the People's Republic of China,” 2002.
20 Standing Committee, “Environmental Impact Assessment.”
21 Ibid; Standing Committee, “Amendment to the Environmental.”
22 Standing Committee, “Environmental Impact Assessment;” Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, “Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China,” 1989.
23 Standing Committee, “Environmental Impact Assessment.”
24 State Council, “Amending the Regulations,” 2017.
26 Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) (now MEE), "Notice on Further Strengthening the Disclosure of Environmental Protection Information," October 2012; State Environmental Protection Administration of China (SEPA) (now MEE), "Measures on Open Environmental Information," February 2007.
27 Standing Committee, “Environmental Impact Assessment.”
28 Standing Committee, “Amendment to the Environmental.”
29 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.