A common drive to safeguard the environment promoted at the Earth Summit, requires the management of national resources according to the needs of respective societies. Governments have to rank the value of environmental resources, in order to set realistic priorities and for their sustainable use. Increasingly, the public demand to know how resources are managed on their behalf, what "trade offs" are made, and how targets of acceptability are set. To tackle such demands, a risk based approach can be utilised.
Perceived threats to natural resources and environmental quality, posed by industrial development, have led to the questioning of "responsible" management and accountability decision making. The challenge for the Exploration and Production business in the 90's, is to manage health safety, environment and asset risk - simultaneously, while ensuring acceptable and transparent decision making.
However, although the value of safety risk assessment is well established, there is no universally accepted methodology for environmental risk assessment (ERA). The development of consistent methods for the identification, quantification, and comparison of environmental risks in E & P is essential to reduce and manage risk more effectively. Other business sectors including banks, investors and the insurance market are recognising the need for a common framework for assessing environmental risks, following pollution incidents and major claims for environmental liability.
A critical review of the "state of the art" of environmental risk assessment will be presented. The development of environmental risk acceptance criteria, as part of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) risk requirements in Norway will be outlined.
The use of environmental risk exposure to set priorities in business planning for current and future development will be explained together with the development of a common denominator, data needs and cost dimensions of risk.
The added value of integrating ERA in decision making within a management system will be highlighted using selected E & P activities.
The only way to "fast track" the reduction of global environmental risks is to harness every dimension of business management and technology together with government policies. Accounting to society for priority setting and decision making, is part of the process which is essential to achieve acceptance of the need to reduce environmental impact, and optimise the use of raw materials and environmental resources. Risk reduction linked to economic realities i.e. efficient in terms of environmental benefit per unit expenditure, is of paramount importance. Binding pacts and covenants on environment between government and industry are being pioneered as a means to secure commercial investment in future environmental improvement. Such approaches not only have the advantage of reducing the unpredictability of expenditure to meet changing legal requirements, but also ensure that industry and government have a mutual interest in resolving a feasible and sustainable long-term plan.
Environmental threats to the globe can be viewed from a number of perspectives and levels: The United Nations need to adopt a "satellite view", with combined overall risk reduction for all countries being the primary goal.