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Environmental justice, impact assessment and the politics of knowledge: The implications of assessing the social distribution of environmental outcomes

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2010
JournalEnvironmental impact assessment review
Journal number5
Volume30
Number of pages7
Pages312-318
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Claims of environmental injustice have increasingly become part of environmental conflicts, both explicitly through the work of environmental justice campaigning groups and implicitly through the arguments deployed about the rights and wrongs of a given situation. Such claims can centre on different notions of justice, including those concerned with questions of distribution and procedure. This paper focuses on distributional or outcome justice and explores what implications follow when the distributional concerns of environmental justice are included in the practice of impact assessment processes, including through social impact assessment (SIA). The current use of impact assessment methods in the UK is reviewed showing that although practices are evolving there is a little routine assessment of distributional inequalities. It is argued that whilst this should become part of established practice to ensure that inequalities are revealed and matters of justice are given a higher profile, the implications for conflict within decision making processes are not straightforward. On the one hand, there could be scope for conflict to be ameliorated by analysis of inequalities informing the debate between stakeholders, and facilitating the implementation of mitigation and compensation measures for disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, contestation over how evidence is produced and therefore what it shows, and disagreement as to the basis on which justice and injustice are to be determined, means that conflict may also be generated and sustained within what are essentially political and strategic settings.