Biodiversity Offsets: Policy options for governments. An input paper for the IUCN Technical Study Group on Biodiversity Offsets

Recently, the IUCN Tech­ni­cal Study Group on Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets has pub­lished some new resources (see also my pre­vi­ous post: Bio­di­ver­sity Off­sets Tech­ni­cal Study Paper). Thanks to Patrick at the BBOP Sec­re­tariat for shar­ing this use­ful information

The present report on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets pol­icy options for gov­ern­ments was writ­ten by Kerry ten Kate, Direc­tor of the Bio­di­ver­sity Ini­tia­tive and of BBOP at For­est Trends, and Michael Crowe, an inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant in Vic­to­ria, Australia.

The pur­pose of this paper is to con­tribute to the con­sid­er­a­tion of pol­icy options by the IUCN Tech­ni­cal Study Group on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and the sub­se­quent Work­ing Group, and to pro­vide infor­ma­tion more broadly to gov­ern­ments and their advi­sors. It is intended as a basic intro­duc­tion to pol­icy on No Net Loss (NNL) or a Net Gain of (NG) of bio­di­ver­sity, and bio­di­ver­sity off­sets. Dis­cus­sions of tech­ni­cal issues are explored in more depth in the com­pan­ion piece (Pil­grim and Ekstrom, 2014). This paper reviews cur­rent infor­ma­tion, but evi­dence is lack­ing as to the extent to which NNL/NG and off­set poli­cies are achiev­ing their goals or con­tribut­ing to bet­ter bio­di­ver­sity out­comes in the juris­dic­tions where they exist. Bear­ing in mind these lim­i­ta­tions, this paper aims to iden­tify pol­icy options at a gen­eral level in the antic­i­pa­tion of sub­se­quent dis­cus­sion and more evidence

You can access the paper online (in the BBOP Library sec­tion) or find the pdf fol­low­ing: Bio­di­ver­sity offsets_policy options for governments

Find below also the key mes­sages of the paper as for­mu­lated by the authors.

Key mes­sages

Gov­ern­ments, com­pa­nies, banks and civil soci­ety are plac­ing more empha­sis on the rig­or­ous appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy to avoid, min­i­mize and com­pen­sate for projects’ impacts on bio­di­ver­sity. The mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy is a sequence of steps, start­ing with avoid­ance of impacts, min­i­miza­tion of inevitable impacts, on-site restora­tion and finally bio­di­ver­sity off­sets to achieve No Net Loss (NNL)or a Net Gain (NG) in biodiversity.

Bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are mea­sur­able con­ser­va­tion out­comes result­ing from actions designed to com­pen­sate for sig­nif­i­cant resid­ual adverse bio­di­ver­sity impacts aris­ing from project devel­op­ment after appro­pri­ate pre­ven­tion and mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures have been taken. The goal of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets is to achieve no net loss and prefer­ably a net gain of bio­di­ver­sity on the ground with respect to species com­po­si­tion, habi­tat struc­ture, ecosys­tem func­tion and people’s use and cul­tural val­ues asso­ci­ated with biodiversity.

There are risks and oppor­tu­ni­ties asso­ci­ated with poli­cies for NNL/NG and the use of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets, and indeed poli­cies have not always achieved their goals nor been clear as to what is under­stood by NNL/NG and what is the base­line. The prin­ci­pal oppor­tu­ni­ties are more and bet­ter con­ser­va­tion, improved land-use plan­ning, liveli­hood and job oppor­tu­ni­ties. The main risks are the use of unre­al­is­tic mit­i­ga­tion com­mit­ments to allow inap­pro­pri­ate projects to pro­ceed, and fail­ure to achieve NNL/NG as a result of unclear and inad­e­quate rules and method­olo­gies and the lack of enforcement.

Thirty-nine coun­tries have exist­ing laws or poli­cies on NNL/NG, bio­di­ver­sity off­sets or com­pen­sa­tion and 22 coun­tries (some of which already have mea­sures in place) are devel­op­ing them. In addi­tion to pub­lic pol­icy, a major dri­ver for No Net Loss and a Net Gain of bio­di­ver­sity in recent years has been the require­ment for NNL/NG within the loan con­di­tions for project finance and safe­guards poli­cies of at least 80 finan­cial institutions.

Prin­ci­ples and stan­dards on bio­di­ver­sity off­sets are avail­able. Core con­cepts include: the prin­ci­ples that under­pin NNL/NG; the state­ment of pol­icy itself, whether this is manda­tory or vol­un­tary and how it is estab­lished in law and guid­ance; the scope and lim­its of the pol­icy; the exchange rules gov­ern­ing which resid­ual impacts can be off­set by what type of gains; the met­rics for mea­sur­ing loss and gain; land-use and land­scape level plan­ning and the loca­tion of mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures (espe­cially areas to be avoided and areas suit­able for off­set activ­i­ties); iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the set of activ­i­ties which can deliver the secure and addi­tional long-term gains needed to off­set resid­ual impacts; clar­i­fi­ca­tion of which orga­ni­za­tions can under­take the off­set­ting activ­i­ties and the stan­dards by which they should abide; under­ly­ing data and capac­ity needs; mon­i­tor­ing and enforce­ment of com­mit­ments on avoid­ance, min­i­miza­tion, restora­tion and off­set­ting; and the gov­er­nance of the sys­tem for deliv­er­ing NNL/NG.

Inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence sug­gests that NNL/NG mea­sures suc­ceed when: mea­sures are in place to improve the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy, and not sim­ply to plan off­sets (the last step); clear, con­sis­tent guid­ance is avail­able, for cer­tainty and to avoid delays; there are clear roles for national, state and local gov­ern­ment and good coor­di­na­tion between gov­ern­ment depart­ments; per­for­mance mon­i­tor­ing and enforce­ment is ensured through good gov­er­nance and ade­quate bud­getary pro­vi­sion; clear prin­ci­ples and stan­dards are in place; legal and finan­cial instru­ments needed to secure long-term imple­men­ta­tion are avail­able; pro­por­tion­ate approaches are planned, with more stream­lined pro­ce­dures and sim­pler base­line stud­ies and met­rics for less sig­nif­i­cant impacts on bio­di­ver­sity, and full assess­ments and met­rics for more sig­nif­i­cant impacts; there is a real­is­tic roadmap to develop the NNL/NG sys­tem and improve it over a few years; prepa­ra­tion for imple­men­ta­tion (includ­ing sup­ply) takes place dur­ing the pol­icy devel­op­ment phase; good base­line data, map­ping and land­scape level plan­ning are avail­able; meth­ods that don’t deliver NNL/NG (e.g.poor met­rics) are avoided; sev­eral options for imple­men­ta­tion are pos­si­ble, pro­vided the same stan­dards are met; per­verse incen­tives are removed; and assis­tance is offered to par­ties such as devel­op­ers and off­set providers who need to find each other.

Rec­om­mended first steps for gov­ern­ments inter­ested in explor­ing NNL/NG pol­icy options include: fact-finding and gap analy­sis on the exist­ing pol­icy frame­work, the avail­abil­ity of bio­di­ver­sity data and maps, and the socioe­co­nomic costs and ben­e­fits asso­ci­ated with intro­duc­ing NNL/NG pol­icy; and pilot projects. This can lead to inte­grat­ing bio­di­ver­sity off­sets with land-use plan­ning at the national or regional lev­els, iden­ti­fy­ing, analysing and eval­u­at­ing pol­icy options, for­mu­lat­ing pol­icy and design­ing NNL/NG sys­tems, and imple­ment­ing, mon­i­tor­ing and review­ing policy.

To com­ple­ment this work by indi­vid­ual gov­ern­ments, it would be help­ful for research to pro­vide a more in-depth and crit­i­cally rig­or­ous com­par­a­tive analy­sis of inter­na­tional expe­ri­ence with mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures, offer­ing evi­dence on whether they have achieved their pol­icy objec­tives, such as NNL/NG.



Biodiversity Offsets: Policy options for governments. An input paper for the IUCN Technical Study Group on Biodiversity Offsets — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Technical conditions for positive outcomes from biodiversity offsets. An input paper for the IUCN Technical Study Group on Biodiversity Offsets - Biodiversity Offsets Blog

  2. Pingback: Newsletter of the Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme, May 2015 - Biodiversity Offsets Blog

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