BBOP holds first No Net Loss Conference on Biodiversity Offsets, June, 3 — 4, 2014, London

Update Sep­tem­ber 2014

There are a whole fol­low up sec­tion (includ­ing sev­eral videos) as well as an exten­sive sum­mary report avail­able. For more infor­ma­tion see my post No Net Loss Con­fer­ence Con­clu­sions and Sum­mary are out.

My obser­va­tions on the No Net Loss conference

As antic­i­pated the BBOP con­fer­ence was indeed quite packed — both in terms of lots of peo­ple and a whole vari­ety of con­tent. There were about 300 peo­ple present and I did not man­age to at least say hi to every­one I would have wanted to. Some peo­ple I have com­pletely missed even though I was look­ing for them. Still, peo­ple were shar­ing the feel­ing of some­how being the BBOP/offset “fam­ily” and as I said: well, the fam­ily has got­ten a bit big­ger now ;o)

So my over­all obser­va­tions of the con­fer­ence would be: big event with lots of (and very diverse) infor­ma­tion and insights by numer­ous peo­ple (sci­ence, pol­icy, busi­ness, NGOs), cre­at­ing a lively and con­tro­ver­sial dis­cus­sion but still over­all famil­iar and very agree­able atmos­phere. The orga­niz­ers did a really good job. The com­bi­na­tion of very short pre­sen­ta­tions (lessons learnt / con­clu­sions) with longer webi­nars (they are avail­able on the con­fer­ence web­site and all ppt-slides have now been uploaded to the BBOP Library page) for me worked really well and I would con­sider this if I had to orga­nize an event in the future. Fur­ther­more, I think, it was really smart to invite both peo­ple who are in favour of and those who are opposed to bio­di­ver­sity off­sets (there had even been a counter event organ­ised on the eve of the con­fer­ence: This made the dis­cus­sion more con­tro­ver­sial with a bit more “hey, wait a minute, let’s step back for a while and look at the big­ger pic­ture” instead of “you are right, I com­pletely agree, that is the way we are mov­ing forward”.

In gen­eral, it is amaz­ing to see how big and how mature the dis­cus­sion on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets has become with more and more peo­ple hav­ing their say and shar­ing their thoughts! I am pretty sure that this devel­op­ment will not cease to con­tinue and look­ing for­ward to the exchange…

For more infor­ma­tion check:

What the organ­is­ers said about the No Net Loss Conference

  • This gath­er­ing will be the first global con­fer­ence on approaches to avoid, min­imise, restore, and off­set bio­di­ver­sity loss.
  • The aim is to explore how we com­pa­nies, gov­ern­ments, banks and civil soci­ety can chart a course to demon­strate ‘No Net Loss’ and prefer­ably a ‘Net Gain’ of bio­di­ver­sity in the con­text of devel­op­ment projects, plans and policies.
  • The ‘No Net Loss Sum­mit’ will bring together 300 experts and pro­fes­sion­als from oil and gas, min­ing, infra­struc­ture, hydro, wind, house-building, util­ity, forestry and agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing and retail com­pa­nies, from gov­ern­ments, finan­cial insti­tu­tions, NGOs, civil soci­ety and research organ­i­sa­tions, and inter­gov­ern­men­tal institutions.

The objec­tives of the con­fer­ence are to:

  • Catal­yse agree­ment on prac­ti­cal ways for busi­ness lead­ers, policy-makers and mem­bers of civil soci­ety to make this gen­er­a­tion gen­er­a­tion the first to leave the world’s bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices in a bet­ter con­di­tion than that in which they inher­ited it
  • Exchange ideas and expe­ri­ence from many coun­tries and indus­try sec­tors on best practice
  • Pro­vide advice on the design and imple­men­ta­tion of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, off­sets and con­ser­va­tion banks to those who need it


BBOP holds first No Net Loss Conference on Biodiversity Offsets, June, 3 — 4, 2014, London — 8 Comments

  1. A com­ment on the con­fer­ence was posted by Daniel Cressey in the Blog of the “Nature” jour­nal:

    Envi­ron­men­tal off­sets under fire

    Allow­ing devel­op­ment of valu­able ecosys­tems in return for pro­tec­tions else­where could ruin attempts to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity, researchers warned at a major con­fer­ence in the United King­dom this week.

    Experts have been meet­ing this week at the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL) to dis­cuss whether and how a goal of ‘no net loss’ of bio­di­ver­sity world­wide might be achieved, in the first global con­fer­ence on the topic. But debate at the meet­ing was dom­i­nated by the con­tro­ver­sial issue of ‘offsets’.

    Off­sets involve pro­tect­ing or improv­ing cer­tain areas as com­pen­sa­tion for devel­op­ment in oth­ers. They range from plant­ing trees in return for a road through wood­land to des­ig­nat­ing a whole new park in return for a min­ing con­ces­sion. But crit­ics say that off­sets are now allow­ing devel­op­ments that would pre­vi­ously have been refused owing to the envi­ron­men­tal dam­age they cause.

    “It’s no secret bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are con­tro­ver­sial,” Jonathan Bail­lie, the direc­tor of con­ser­va­tion projects at ZSL told the meeting.

    Bail­lie stressed that off­sets should be a “very last resort” for those attempt­ing to con­serve bio­di­ver­sity. He and oth­ers at the meet­ing also insisted that some areas — notably, those listed as UNESCO World Her­itage Sites — should never be devel­oped in return for offsets.

    One exam­ple raised repeat­edly at the meet­ing was the Virunga National Park in the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo, which con­ser­va­tion groups fear is under threat from oil extrac­tion. “For this, there are no off­sets,” said Baillie.

    Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the direc­tor gen­eral of the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature, based in Gland, Switzer­land, also warned against try­ing to off­set World Her­itage Sites and stressed that good sci­ence was essen­tial for suc­cess­ful off­sets. Not know­ing exactly what you are destroy­ing and what you are sav­ing would under­mine exist­ing con­ser­va­tion, she said.

    But off­sets could be use­ful, she told the meet­ing, as impor­tant bio­di­ver­sity and valu­able min­er­als and oil have “the com­mon habit of shar­ing the same spaces in a landscape”.

    Oth­ers at the meet­ing though warned that off­sets were already allow­ing projects to be approved that would oth­er­wise have been rejected on envi­ron­men­tal grounds. Han­nah Mowat, a cam­paigner at FERN, a Brussels-based forestry non-governmental orga­ni­za­tion, said: “It is becom­ing what we are fear­ing — a licence to trash.”

    She made the anal­ogy to some­one hav­ing their house bull­dozed and then get­ting a new house built some­where else. Even if the new house was objec­tively nicer, one still might not view it as a replace­ment. In essence, says Mowat, noth­ing is ‘off­set­table’ in nature: “Let’s be hon­est about that.”

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  3. Just came across another com­ment on the No Net Loss Con­fer­ence, which was posted on Fauna Flora International’s Blog:

    Grab­bing the bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis by the horns

    Yes, we know there’s a bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis loom­ing. But now isn’t the time to bury our heads in the sand. Now’s the time to brave up, get real and get mov­ing says Fauna & Flora International’s Pippa Howard.

    Last week, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from over 32 coun­tries came together to find a path for­ward that can halt bio­di­ver­sity decline, ensure con­ser­va­tion and still meet devel­op­ment objec­tives around the world.

    There was a wealth of intel­lect, expe­ri­ence and pas­sion present – and a lot of really use­ful learn­ing, shar­ing, reflect­ing and con­test­ing. But there was also a lot of skirt­ing around the edges and back-patting.

    For a prob­lem that is so over­whelm­ingly backed by fright­en­ing and urgent evi­dence, we are clearly fail­ing to grab the bull by the horns.

    For all the exam­ples of good prac­tice and good will at the con­fer­ence, To No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity and Beyond, there were also cases of stalling, under-shooting goals or com­pletely mis­plac­ing objec­tives in the first place through an absence of will or an admis­sion of defeat…”

    To read the full post please visit

  4. And another follow-up, by Ecosys­tem mar­ket­place can be found here:

    Exam­ples, Dia­logue And Clearer Pol­icy Needed In Bio­di­ver­sity Offsetting

    High­lights includ­ing video footage from last month’s con­fer­ence on ‘no net loss’ of bio­di­ver­sity, which brought together a mul­ti­tude of sec­tors to dis­cuss avoid­ing, min­i­miz­ing, restor­ing and off­set­ting bio­di­ver­sity loss, are now avail­able. The event, held at the Lon­don Zoo and hosted by BBOP, was the first of its kind.

    15 July 2014 | On the third and fourth of June, 280 indi­vid­u­als from 32 coun­tries met in Lon­don at the To No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity and Beyond con­fer­ence to dis­cuss how to ensure that devel­op­ment is planned to achieve no net loss or prefer­ably a net gain in bio­di­ver­sity. They explored inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence and pol­icy on no net loss and a net gain of bio­di­ver­sity, and every­one was search­ing for prac­ti­cal solu­tions to rec­on­cile devel­op­ment with envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and social fairness.

    Hosted by For­est Trends, the Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets Pro­gramme (BBOP), the UK Depart­ment for Envi­ron­ment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL) at ZSL, the rep­re­sen­ta­tives came from com­pa­nies in the extrac­tive, energy, infra­struc­ture, agri­cul­ture, forestry and retail sec­tors, from gov­ern­ments and inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, from finan­cial insti­tu­tions, NGOs, civil soci­ety, uni­ver­si­ties, research orga­ni­za­tions and from con­sul­tan­cies and small businesses.

    “There is a real gen­uine inter­est in the topic of no net loss of bio­di­ver­sity now,” says BBOP Direc­tor, Kerry ten Kate. “Peo­ple want to dis­cuss it and share ideas and hear dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives from around the world.”

    Many use­ful lessons were shared through­out the two days and rec­om­men­da­tions sprang from every ses­sion. How­ever, a num­ber of cross-cutting, key issues emerged as major themes from the two days’ dis­cus­sions, as sum­ma­rized below:

    Strengthen pro­tec­tion: Activ­i­ties, poli­cies and frame­works to mit­i­gate impacts on bio­di­ver­sity, includ­ing those related to bio­di­ver­sity off­sets, must strengthen and not weaken bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion. Improv­ing the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and work­ing towards no net loss and a net gain of bio­di­ver­sity is intended to ensure greater rigour and a bet­ter out­come for con­ser­va­tion than under cur­rent sys­tems, and not to under­mine them.
    Clear pol­icy: For NNL/NG to become a real­is­tic prospect in a coun­try, clear and unam­bigu­ous pol­icy require­ments that estab­lishes high stan­dards are needed. Many par­tic­i­pants doubted whether vol­un­tary sys­tems are enough to encour­age a big enough pro­por­tion of devel­op­ers to plan for no net loss, nor landown­ers to invest in con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties as off­sets. All par­tic­i­pants accepted that gov­ern­ment has a crit­i­cal role to play, lev­el­ling the play­ing field, reduc­ing uncer­tain­ties for busi­ness, ensur­ing good out­comes for peo­ple, and keep­ing stan­dards high.
    Bio­di­ver­sity off­sets in con­text: There is gen­eral recog­ni­tion that bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting can be chal­leng­ing and con­tro­ver­sial, but that when off­sets are used, they must be dis­cussed and included within the broader mit­i­ga­tion frame­work, and not raised as an iso­lated issue.
    High stan­dards: In any impact mit­i­ga­tion pro­gramme (includ­ing bio­di­ver­sity off­sets), in order to enable good out­comes for bio­di­ver­sity and peo­ple, it is crit­i­cal to apply the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy con­sis­tently accord­ing to high stan­dards, such as those reflected in the BBOP Stan­dard and IFC Per­for­mance Stan­dard 6. In the course of nego­ti­a­tions with gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies over the design of a mit­i­ga­tion pro­gramme, empha­sis should be placed first on dis­cus­sions related to avoid­ance, min­i­miza­tion and on-site restora­tion. Flex­i­bil­ity in the approaches taken to achieve no net loss was encour­aged, but clar­ity on the bio­di­ver­sity out­come was felt to be impor­tant. Stan­dards need to strike a bal­ance between being too pre­scrip­tive to be prac­ti­ca­ble and being too flex­i­ble to be cred­i­ble or to offer assur­ance of out­comes.
    Land­scape level plan­ning: Assess­ing pro­posed project devel­op­ment and mit­i­ga­tion of impacts in the con­text of spa­tial plans under­taken at a land­scape or national scale is impor­tant to sup­port sound land use decision-making. For instance, it informs where devel­op­ment should or should not take place. No net loss plan­ning should be inte­grated within broader plan­ning and pol­icy frame­works. Where pos­si­ble, guide­lines to iden­tify “no-go” zones and areas of high bio­di­ver­sity value suit­able for con­ser­va­tion efforts through off­sets should be iden­ti­fied as a mat­ter of pol­icy and not rel­e­gated to case-by-case deci­sions.
    Capac­ity build­ing and train­ing: There is a short­age of peo­ple with the right exper­tise to under­stand and to under­take the assess­ments and plan­ning needed for no net loss, and to inter­pret and use the results. This is an impor­tant lim­i­ta­tion and needs to be cor­rected by train­ing of staff from gov­ern­ment agen­cies, com­pa­nies, con­sul­tan­cies and civil soci­ety and research organ­i­sa­tions. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of trained indi­vid­u­als would help build con­fi­dence that pro­fes­sion­als are using high stan­dards.
    Exam­ples: More exam­ples of best prac­tice with suc­cess­ful approaches and out­comes are needed to build con­fi­dence in the con­cepts of no net loss, net gain and the qual­ity of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, includ­ing bio­di­ver­sity off­sets. Exam­ples that are inde­pen­dently ver­i­fied against agreed inter­na­tional stan­dards would be the most con­vinc­ing.
    Mon­i­tor­ing, ver­i­fi­ca­tion and enforce­ment: These are vital for the qual­ity and integrity of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures includ­ing off­sets, and have often been neglected in the past.
    More dia­logue: Inter­na­tional, multi-stakeholder dis­cus­sion involv­ing peo­ple with very dif­fer­ent opin­ions about the mer­its of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures and bio­di­ver­sity off­sets is needed in order to reach and pro­mote wide soci­etal agree­ment on the nec­es­sary stan­dards for mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures and asso­ci­ated land-use plan­ning. Even those with appar­ently oppos­ing posi­tions were able to move a lit­tle closer through an exchange of ideas dur­ing the con­fer­ence and such dia­logue should be continued.

    The final con­fer­ence report is avail­able here and pro­vides a sum­mary of dis­cus­sions at the conference.”

    There are also some videos avail­able to watch.

  5. and another com­ment in a guest blog post on the British Eco­log­i­cal Society’s blog, by Bruce Howard, the NERC Knowl­edge Exchange Fel­low on bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting:

    Achiev­ing no net loss of some­thing or other

    In this guest blog post, Bruce Howard, the NERC Knowl­edge Exchange Fel­low on bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting, gives his take on BBOP’s ‘To No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity and Beyond’ con­fer­ence recently held in Lon­don. Bruce is based at the Cen­tre for Ecol­ogy and Hydrology.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of over 30 coun­tries gath­ered on 3rd and 4th June for the first global con­fer­ence on approaches to avoid, min­imise, restore and off­set bio­di­ver­sity loss. This sequence of four activ­i­ties, known as the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy, is cru­cial to pro­tect­ing ‘bio­di­ver­sity’ from the impacts of build­ing things on the ground or at sea.

    The con­fer­ence, which was spear­headed by the Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets (BBOP) Pro­gramme, was enti­tled To No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity and Beyond. No net loss of bio­di­ver­sity is what many believe should result from cor­rect appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy. The idea was used as part of the ratio­nale for Defra’s 2013 Green Paper on plans to bring about greater use of bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting in England.

    The dis­cus­sions at the con­fer­ence demon­strated that while the logic of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy is accepted widely, the assess­ment of whether it is being applied will always be sub­jec­tive. For exam­ple, does avoid­ance include devel­op­ment pro­pos­als that were aban­doned before they were prop­erly doc­u­mented? Sim­i­larly, is min­imi­sa­tion just sen­si­ble envi­ron­men­tal planning?

    Most del­e­gates appeared to agree that bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are a last resort at the end of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy. There were, how­ever, dif­fer­ences of opin­ion among par­tic­i­pants about the effect of the option of off­set­ting on steps fur­ther up the hier­ar­chy. Some at the con­fer­ence claimed that off­sets pro­vided an incen­tive to drive up stan­dards through­out the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy, not least because of the costs involved. Oth­ers would dis­agree, or at least argue that the evi­dence for this among all the off­set schemes world­wide is lacking.

    The con­fer­ence con­tained a mix of parochial and plan­e­tary con­sid­er­a­tions. In a ple­nary debate about the pros and cons of includ­ing off­sets in the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy, Tom Tew, Chief Exec­u­tive of the Envi­ron­ment Bank asserted that off­set­ting for Eng­land was not about “sav­ing the planet” but rather “intro­duc­ing envi­ron­men­tal account­abil­ity into [spa­tial] plan­ning”. This down-to-earth view con­trasted with the more gen­eral and global view of oth­ers. Over­all, the con­fer­ence made clear that where off­sets are per­mit­ted, suc­cess or fail­ure of off­sets will always depend on the cir­cum­stances. These include the avail­abil­ity of data to estab­lish an eco­log­i­cal base­line, the extent of good gov­er­nance and the tech­ni­cal mer­its of restora­tion proposals.

    Strangely, there was lit­tle dis­cus­sion among con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants as to exactly what the bio­di­ver­sity we don’t want to lose actu­ally is. The Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Con­ven­tion on Bio­log­i­cal Diver­sity, Braullio Dias, spoke about the roles of bio­di­ver­sity in health and poverty erad­i­ca­tion but not its iden­tity. The CBD’s def­i­n­i­tion of bio­di­ver­sity, which focuses on vari­abil­ity among liv­ing organ­isms and the eco­log­i­cal com­plexes of which they are part, is giv­ing way to the view that it is all things that peo­ple value about nature. Peter Bakker, Pres­i­dent of the World Busi­ness Coun­cil on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment made the provoca­tive claim that bio­di­ver­sity is a “mean­ing­less” term in the goal-oriented world of busi­ness. With­out clar­ity on what we are try­ing to pro­tect in diverse sit­u­a­tions around the world, it will be impos­si­ble to mon­i­tor progress towards any no net loss goal.

    The idea of no net loss per­haps found great­est mean­ing in a keynote speech by the Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter for Gabon, Noel Nel­son Mes­sone. He set out a vision for pro­tect­ing his country’s nat­ural resources by means of exten­sive pro­tected areas and bans on the export of raw com­modi­ties. No net loss of vir­gin for­est in Cen­tral Africa is far more tan­gi­ble as a goal than the avoid­ance of over­all bio­di­ver­sity loss around the UK.

    A busi­ness round­table on day two focused on build­ing a busi­ness case for bio­di­ver­sity and putting no net loss into prac­tice within the pri­vate sec­tor. The busi­nesses rep­re­sented had many dif­fer­ent approaches to bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion, rang­ing from account­ing for impacts along sup­ply chains to the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy. The need for more part­ner­ships between busi­nesses and nature-based NGOs and gov­ern­ments was iden­ti­fied. At a ses­sion on safe­guards, stan­dards and tools for bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion, the need for trained ecol­o­gists with good com­mu­ni­ca­tion and nego­ti­a­tion skills was noted.

    The con­fer­ence was enti­tled To No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity and Beyond. The ‘beyond’ was per­haps an allu­sion to the idea of net gain. How­ever, until we can deliver no net loss for the some­thing or other that we call bio­di­ver­sity, the achieve­ment of net gain will remain a task for future gen­er­a­tions.
    – See more at:

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  8. I think that the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy is well rec­og­nized in the world now and the ques­tion is how to apply Bio­di­ver­sity Off­set on the ground. It will be dif­fer­ent in dif­fer­ent coun­tries depend­ing on the nat­ural envi­ron­ment they have and nat­ural assets lost by human activities.

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