“Challenging futures of biodiversity offsets and banking” — report and findings from a Workshop held by the “Innovation in Governance Research Group”

“Chal­leng­ing futures of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and bank­ing” was the name of a work­shop that was held on 19 April 2013 in Berlin. The work­shop was orga­nized by the ‘Inno­va­tion in Gov­er­nance Research Group’ Berlin  as part of its research on the emer­gence, devel­op­ment and spread of new forms of governance.

The team applied a scenario-based approach to engage the par­tic­i­pants in a dia­logue about bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and habi­tat bank­ing in the con­text of gov­er­nance and prin­ci­ples of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. As a result, 24 invited experts gath­ered for a lively dis­cus­sion (I took part in this dis­cus­sion). The report of this event is now pub­licly avail­able. Thanks to Carsten Mann and his team.

I have extracted some main points from the sum­mary of the report below.

Challenging futures of biodiversity offsets and banking

You can find the Agenda here: Chal­leng­ing futures of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and bank­ing Agenda

To access the work­shop report directly on the web­site of the Inno­va­tion in Gov­er­nance Research Group, please go to: http://www.innovation-in-governance.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Biodiversity_offsets_banking_challenging_futures_report_final.pdf

Fur­ther­more, I have also uploaded a pdf here: Chal­leng­ing futures of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and bank­ing Work­shop report

Sum­mary of the report

This report emerged from the work­shop “Chal­leng­ing futures of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and bank­ing”, held by the Inno­va­tion in Gov­er­nance Research Group on April 19, 2013, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Acad­emy of Sci­ences and Human­i­ties in Berlin, Ger­many. The work­shop was con­cep­tu­al­ized and designed as a plat­form for a wide vari­ety of actors who reg­u­larly deal with the design and imple­men­ta­tion of bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, off­set, and bank­ing schemes in order to iden­tify and dis­cuss issues and chal­lenges for the future devel­op­ment of gov­er­nance approaches for bio­di­ver­sity conservation.

The work­shop panel brought together diverse prac­ti­tion­ers and schol­ars involved in the devel­op­ment of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and credit trad­ing as an inno­va­tion in gov­er­nance. Their engage­ment with these pol­icy instru­ments is con­nected to par­tic­u­lar inter­ests in the design and use of such new gov­er­nance approaches: from sci­en­tific and method­olog­i­cal per­spec­tives to polit­i­cal views that empha­size pub­lic respon­si­bil­ity in fac­ing bio­di­ver­sity loss and, finally, busi­ness inter­ests in estab­lish­ing mar­ket and ser­vice infrastructures.

Even though they shared a com­mon inter­est in deal­ing with bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting and bank­ing schemes, the par­tic­i­pants held dif­fer­ent views of the ‘nature’ of nature and bio­di­ver­sity, how to deter­mine their value, and whether market-based approaches can be suit­able for the gov­er­nance of bio­di­ver­sity conservation.

Some of the views were more opti­mistic, oth­ers more crit­i­cal as regards the prospects of bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting and bank­ing. In bring­ing these dis­tinct per­spec­tives together in a focused process, the work­shop stim­u­lated a crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion and facil­i­tated debates about the future and its chal­lenges for the use and design of bio­di­ver­sity off­set and bank­ing approaches.


One basic find­ing from the work­shop was that while the design of bio­di­ver­sity off­set approaches and bio­di­ver­sity val­u­a­tion meth­ods is often framed as functional-methodological issues, it is almost always linked with more fun­da­men­tal and poten­tially antag­o­nis­tic philoso­phies, world­views and ratio­nal­i­ties of how to see, use and value nature. The method­ol­ogy, design and imple­men­ta­tion of bio­di­ver­sity off­set and bank­ing schemes is thus as much a polit­i­cal as a tech­ni­cal issue, a mat­ter of con­cern and judg­ment, fact and functionality.


The main part of this report sum­ma­rizes the issues and chal­lenges dis­cussed by work­shop par­tic­i­pants in rela­tion to the future devel­op­ment of bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting and bank­ing. These issues cover a range of top­ics. The work­shop par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed ques­tions about the func­tions and suit­abil­ity of bio­di­ver­sity off­set schemes for halt­ing bio­di­ver­sity loss, and the con­tri­bu­tion of such tools to con­ser­va­tion strate­gies and land-use plan­ning pro­ce­dures. Par­tic­i­pants debated the value of bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tems, along with the need for more holis­tic and par­tic­i­pa­tory val­u­a­tion meth­ods that go beyond sim­ple mea­sure­ments in phys­i­cal and eco­nomic terms. These top­ics were related to basic ques­tions about the desir­abil­ity and long-term impacts of mon­e­ta­riz­ing and per­mit­ting the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of nature and bio­di­ver­sity. Par­tic­i­pants also brought up chal­lenges of qual­ity assur­ance as well as prob­lems involved in the stan­dard­iza­tion of off­set schemes.


As result of the work­shop, it appears that a quick res­o­lu­tion of open issues and chal­lenges in the design and use of bio­di­ver­sity off­set schemes may not be desir­able, at least if it would imply clo­sure in the debate by estab­lish­ing ‘one best way’ of doing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion. The fun­da­men­tal polit­i­cal nature of most con­tro­ver­sies on how to con­cep­tu­al­ize, orga­nize and imple­ment bio­di­ver­sity off­set schemes sug­gests that there is no objec­tively right or wrong design deci­sion to be taken. Any deci­sion will be a polit­i­cal deci­sion in favor of one approach and against oth­ers. This should be made explicit to allow the con­cerned publics of such approaches, as well as a more gen­eral pub­lic, to judge and engage with them on their own terms.

A core chal­lenge for the future of bio­di­ver­sity off­sets and bank­ing is to pro­vide for an inno­va­tion process which expresses the under­ly­ing ratio­nal­i­ties and expec­ta­tions of market-based approaches for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, as well as their pos­si­ble lim­its and con­se­quences, in order to allow for pub­lic debate and con­tes­ta­tion, and ulti­mately polit­i­cal deci­sion, instead of shield­ing analy­sis and design from broader engage­ment by posi­tion­ing them as objec­tive, tech­ni­cal ques­tions that are the sole purview of experts.


“Challenging futures of biodiversity offsets and banking” — report and findings from a Workshop held by the “Innovation in Governance Research Group” — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Will the Great Barrier Reef die of off: How harmful are coastal development activities and can Marine Biodiversity Offsets be effective? - Biodiversity Offsets Blog

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