The European Union’s Birds and Habitats Directives and Marine Strategy Framework Directive demand that the proponent describes and assesses the potential cumulative effects on wildlife in environmental impact assessment reports for proposed actions. Based upon the DPSIR (Driving forces, Pressures, States, Impacts, Responses) approach (European Environment Agency 1999), a 6-step framework for undertaking a cumulative impacts assessment was developed to address this requirement:
- Identify the relevant pressures the envisaged activities could cause.
- Identify the habitats and species that may be affected by these pressures.
- Describe all other activities that could affect the same species.
- Describe the nature and scale of the cumulative effects of all the activities selected in Step 3 on the selected habitats and species.
- Evaluate the significance of the effects on the selected habitats and species.
- If necessary, adapt the activity by taking measures to prevent the activity from causing significant effects.
The first application of this approach was carried out for the initiative of the Dutch Social Economic Council, the Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth (2013). The agreement proposed an offshore wind capacity of 4500 MW by 2030 for the Dutch part of the North Sea. The application of this cumulative impacts assessment framework showed that effective mitigation measures are required to achieve this agreement without endangering protected species and habitats, in line with European Union (EU) nature and environmental legislation. Mitigation measures can be implemented through conditions on permits for offshore wind farm projects, which include restrictions on the maximum underwater noise levels during construction, the minimum capacity of individual wind turbines, and measures to reduce bird and bat collisions and fatalities during seasons of major migration.