Over the past twenty years CIDA has steadily been increasing its focus on the environment. CIDA intensified its environmental programming in the 1980s. Guided by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) (2012) and CIDA's Policy for Environmental Sustainability (1992), CIDA integrates environmental considerations into all of its activities and decision-making.
Assessing the environmental implications of projects, programs, and policies has become an integral part of planning and implementation at CIDA. Environmental Assessment helps ensure that environmental concerns are addressed at an early stage, and that projects are designed with environmental sustainability in mind. EA improves project, program, and policy design by considering alternatives to the project and alternative means of carrying out the project, as well as methods of mitigating any potentially adverse effects. The EA process also offers many diverse stakeholders the opportunity to participate in community development.
CIDA's Policy for Environmental Sustainability addresses not only the issue of changes to the biophysical environment, but how these changes affect the social, economic, cultural, and political sustainability of a community. The interrelationship of these elements of sustainable development is acknowledged within CIDA's project cycle, and informs all stages of development planning, from conceptualization and appraisal to monitoring and completion. Changes in the physical or social environment, from the operation of a mine to changes in tax laws, can affect efforts at poverty reduction and sustainable economic development, the provision of basic human needs, good governance, and institutional strengthening.
As part of good development planning, CIDA uses environmental assessment to anticipate impacts, prevent adverse effects and maximize environmental benefits.
Environmental assessment is a valuable planning process for assessing how the impact of changes in the natural environment can affect quality of life. Destruction or degradation of natural resources can affect the health of individuals, their social and cultural well-being, and their economic sustainability. The mismanagement of natural resources can exacerbate poverty most severely in community groups that are already marginalized-the poor, women, children, and indigenous peoples, who often depend directly on the natural environment for their subsistence. EA is a key process within CIDA to ensure that the concerns of all groups are dealt with, and that the end result contributes to an improved quality of life.