Solomon Islands has a comprehensive legislative framework for environmental impact assessment in the form of the Environment Act 1998 (and Environment Regulations 2008), which could form the basis for an effective social and environmental safeguard – but only if it is made clear that the Act applies to REDD+ activities. This could be achieved by amending the list of “prescribed developments” to include REDD+ activities (s. 16; Sch. 2). The Act would also form a more effective social safeguard if it contained more detailed guidance as to how the social impacts of a proposed development must be identified and assessed, including the potential impacts on women.
Under the Environment Act 1998, logging operations are listed as a “prescribed development” and therefore require approval (development consent) from the Director of the Environment and Conservation Division as well as some form of environmental impact assessment (EIA), either in the form of a public environment report (PER) or a more detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) (ss. 16 – 19). The Director must decide whether a PER or EIS is required before the Director can grant approval to a proposed operation, unless the Director has decided to grant the developer an exemption instead (ss. 17(4) and 19(c)). The Director can also require existing logging operations to prepare a PER or EIS (s. 18). People whose interests are likely to be affected by a proposed development have the right to participate in the EIA process (ss. 22 – 24).
As the Act currently stands, REDD+ activities are unlikely to trigger the requirement to prepare a PER or EIS unless the REDD+ activity incorporates an “agricultural development scheme”, which itself is a prescribed activity (Sch. 2(8)(b)). While there is also a general duty imposed on all public authorities (local, provincial and national) to consider the effect on the environment of a proposed development where the development requires some type of approval, this lower threshold means that it is less likely to result in the need to prepared a PER or EIS for a REDD+ activity (s. 15).