Definition of Biodiversity Offsets
Biodiversity Offsets are defined as “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”. [BBOP 2009]
Context of Biodiversity Offsets
- Compensation approaches for impacts on biological diversity exist in numerous countries worldwide.[Darbi et al. 2009]
- Liability for damages is stipulated under various sectoral laws, e.g. environment, mining, forests, waste and water.
- The “Polluter Pays Principle” is widely recognized. According to this, generally the project proponent is liable for the damages caused by a development, and has therefore to put in place appropriate compensation measures. [Darbi 2010a]
However, the situation on the ground is very heterogeneous and a variety of terms exists. Former research on this issue [cf. Darbi et al. 2009] has shown that in a global context the term “compensation” is misleading as it is often used for financial compensation for social inequalities rather than for environmental degradation. More and more “environmental / biodiversity offsets” are becoming the dominating term (in the last few years this has in particular been fostered by the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program).
Concept of Biodiversity Offsets
The concept of biodiversity offsets means that negative impacts on biological diversity need to be compensated or counterbalanced by conservation or restoration measures in order to ensure “No Net Loss” of biodiversity (see Figure 1).
“Biodiversity Offsets are conservation activities intended to compensate for the residual, unavoidable harm to biodiversity caused by development projects” [ten Kate et al. 2004]
“Biodiversity offsets seek to ensure that unavoidable adverse environmental impacts of development are counterbalanced by environmental gains” [Escorcio Bezerra 2007]
“A biodiversity Offset is a piece of land that is set aside from development to maintain its biodiversity values and thereby offset the effects of development on biodiversity values elsewhere.” [Howard 2007]
Figure 1: Definitions of Biodiversity Offsets
Biodiversity Offsets within the Mitigation Hierarchy
Biodiversity Offsets are defined as “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”. This hierarchical procedure is called the “Mitigation Hierarchy” (see Figure 2). 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 [BBOP 2009].
Figure 2: The Mitigation Hierarchy
BBOP (2009) Business, Biodiversity Offsets and BBOP: An Overview. http://www.forest-trends.org/biodiversityoffsetprogram/guidelines/overview.pdf
Darbi, M (2010a): Biodiversity Offsets – a tool for environmental management and biodiversity conservation. In: In: Sanchez Bengoa, D.; Powell, D. (Eds.) : TOP Biodiversity 2010. Intercollege-Larnaca, Cyprus. Conference Proceedings. Larnaca : Intercollege-Larnaca, 2010, S.289–301.
Darbi, M.; Ohlenburg, H.; Herberg, A.; Wende, W., Skambracks, D. & Herbert, M. (2009), International Approaches to Compensation for Impacts on Biological Diversity. Final Report. Im Internet: http://www.forest-trends.org/biodiversityoffsetprogram/library/new/Bio-kom_Final %20Report_IOER_TUB.pdf.
Escorcio Bezerra, L G (2007): Biodiversity Offsets in National (Brazil) and Regional (EU) Mandatory Arrangements: Towards an International Regime? http://www.forest-trends.org/biodiversityoffsetprogram/library/new/Dissertation%20Biodiversity%20Offsets%20LGB%20IUCN%20BBOP.doc
Howard, K (2007): Voluntary Biodiversity Offsets: Improving the environmental management toolbox. Im Internet: http://www.cortex.org/d-Cortex-%20Biodiversity%20Offsets_01Dec 07.pdf
ten Kate et al. (2004) (ten Kate, K; Bishop, J and Bayon, R): Biodiversity offsets: Views, experience, and the business case. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK and Insight Investment, London, UK