UPDATE 20 October 2014: The consultation is now closed! I will keep you informed on the results and how the process is ongoing.
The European Commission has published an on-line consultation on a future (2015) EU initiative to halt biodiversity loss. Most of you will already know this, but for some it may be new. The pressing question is: who has responded to this consultation so far?!
The consultation opened in June and ever since featured on my everyday to-do list. I bet that’s the same for many of you. I finally did it today (also encouraged by this blog) and want to share my insights with you. The deadline has been extended to 17 October, but you don’t need to wait that long 😉
For those of you who are not familiar with the planned No Net Loss Initiative I have briefly summarized some background information below (What is the planned No Net Loss Initiative?).
For those of you who want to know what they must expect from the consultation (how many questions, what type of questions, how much time do I need to answer the consultation) I have summarized some practical information on the consultation. This is followed by a list of all questions and some explanations of key terms that are provided in the scope of the consultation (mitigation hierarchy, drivers of biodiversity loss, biodiversity offsets).
If you want to access the website of the consultation directly, please visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/nnl_en.htm.
What is the planned No Net Loss Initiative?
With the adoption of its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy the EU has made a commitment to halt “the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible”. In particular, this shall be achieved by target 2 claiming to maintain and enhance ecosystems and their services “by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems”. Supporting actions include the development of a strategic framework to set priorities for ecosystem restoration at sub-national, national and EU level (Action 6a), a Green Infrastructure Strategy by 2012 (action 6b), and an initiative to ensure there is no net loss of ecosystems and their services (e.g. through compensation or offsetting schemes) by 2015 (action 7b) (both initiated by the European Commission). In this regard the use of new and innovative instruments and strategies to achieve no net loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services shall be examined. In particular, this refers to the concept of biodiversity offsets. Biodiversity Offsets seek to compensate for the unavoidable, residual impacts to biodiversity in order to ensure overall “no net loss”.
Ahead of this the European commission has put in place a Working Group on No Net Loss of Ecosystems and their Services and contracted a report on “Policy Options for an EU No Net Loss Initiative” (Final Report Institute for European Environmental Policy). This report together with the work of the No Net Loss working group provides the basis for the public consultation.
For more information on the planned No Net Loss Initiative and the No Net Loss working group please visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/nnl/index_en.htm.
The most important information concerning the consultation can be found here http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/nnl_en.htm (and the press release http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-645_en.htm).
Practical information on the consultation
You can provide your input either as a citizen (your personal private view), on behalf of an organisation or on behalf of a public authority. After choosing, you will be directed to the questionnaire. It consists of 31 questions, 13 of these are optional.
The format of the questions is mostly multiple-choice (tick the most convenient answer). As a result, you might click through the questionnaire rather quickly. However, if you wish to provide additional comments you are usually encouraged to do so in the optional questions. Furthermore, some of the questions are quite long, actually they are more an introductory explanation than a question (see list of questions below). So, to read this and carefully choose your answer, you may need around 15 minutes (likely depending on how much you’re into this field). Altogether, it was less work (and details) than I had expected.
So, whatever you are concerned about — have your say today!
List of questions for citizens
Page 1: Background (5 questions)
1.1. Are you responding to this consultation as an individual or on behalf of an organization? (tick)
1.6. Please indicate the country of your residence (tick)
1.7. Please provide your name and title.
1.8. How well informed do you consider yourself to be about the EU No Net Loss Initiative? (tick)
1.9. Unless you specify otherwise, your contribution will be published on the Commission’s website. Please indicate here if you wish your contribution to be anonymous. (for full information please refer to the Specific Privacy Statement) (tick)
Page 2: Scope and Objectives of the future EU No Net Loss initiative (7 questions, including 3 optional)
2.1. The future EU initiative on No Net Loss will cover the following causes of biodiversity loss: land-use change, over-exploitation of natural resources and diffuse pollution to water and soil. (tick, level of agreement)
2.2. You are invited to explain your answer to the previous question. (optional)
2.3. The future EU initiative on No Net Loss will focus on territory outside the Natura 2000 network. (tick, level of agreement)
2.4. You are invited to explain your answer to the previous question. (optional)
2.5. Do you think that the future EU initiative on No Net Loss should, in the first instance, cover the terrestrial environment and subsequently be extended to cover the marine environment, or should the initiative cover, from the start, both the terrestrial and the marine environment? (tick, choose between the two options)
2.6. What is your opinion concerning the importance of including the following economic sectors within the scope of the future EU NNL initiative? (tick, importance for each sector)
2.7. You are invited to explain your answers to the previous question including the identification of sectors that you had in mind if you indicated that “other sectors” were “very important” or “important”. (optional)
Page 3: The mitigation hierarchy including compensation and offsetting (5 questions, including 2 optional)
3.1. What is your opinion concerning the following statement– ‘the correct application of the mitigation hierarchy is essential if No Net Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services is to be achieved’ (tick, level of agreement)
3.2. Some stakeholders, while supporting the mitigation hierarchy in principle, are concerned that in practice the steps in the sequence will not be respected and that efforts to avoid, reduce and restore will be put aside in favour of compensation/offsetting. In your opinion, should the future EU initiative on No Net Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, address compensation/offsetting OR should this be excluded? (tick, choose between four options)
3.3. You are invited to provide an explanation of your answer to the previous question. (optional)
3.4 How well do you think the mitigation hierarchy is built into existing EU legislation and policies? (tick, level of achievement)
3.5. Please provide an explanation of your response to the previous question. (optional)
Page 4: The Future EU Initiative on No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (4 questions, including 3 optional)
4.1. The report by IEEP on policy options for an EU No Net Loss initiative (chapter 5) identifies over 30 individual measures that could potentially be included in the future EU NNL initiative. Where several measures are closely linked these have been bundled together into a discrete group. There are 11 such groups in the IEEP report. (optional, tick, level of support)
- 4.1.1. Enhancing the scope and strengthening the implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive.
- 4.1.2. Strengthening the EIA Directive and improving its implementation.
- 4.1.3. Strengthening the SEA Directive and improving its implementation
- 4.1.4. Improving spatial planning in the terrestrial, coastal and marine environments.
- 4.1.5. Enhancing the mainstreaming of environmental measures in the CAP so as to better protect semi-natural areas.
- 4.1.6. Addressing NNL objectives in the context of the EU Forest Strategy.
- 4.1.7. Biodiversity proofing of the EU budget.
- 4.1.8. Developing a voluntary EU framework for compensation/ offsetting including technical guidelines and benchmarking good practice.
- 4.1.9. Developing a legal framework at the EU level for compensation/offsetting including general principles and common standards.
- 4.1.10. Promoting the use of market instruments to support the NNL objective including a possible “No Net Loss” label.
4.2. Can you suggest other measures in addition to those identified in the previous question that would be important to include in the future EU NNL initiative? (optional)
4.3. Policy Options . In the following series of questions we are seeking your opinion on the general character of the future EU initiative on No Net Loss. Below you will find a series of different policy objectives and for each of them you are requested to indicate your views concerning its inclusion in the future EU NNL initiative. (tick, level of desirability to include)
- 4.3.1. Take steps to improve the effectiveness of the existing legislation and policies including through better enforcement, increasing awareness and technical guidelines.
- 4.3.2. Reviewing and where appropriate revising existing pieces of environmental legislation to ensure that the principle of No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Ecosystems is respected and that the mitigation hierarchy is properly integrated.
- 4.3.3. Ensure that policies and actions supported by EU funds respect the principle of No Net Loss and apply the mitigation hierarchy appropriately.
- 4.3.4. A framework at EU level to promote the coherent and consistent use of compensation/offsetting, including technical guidance and benchmarking best practice.
- 4.3.5. Other measures
4.4. If, in answering the previous question, you indicated that “other measures” were either “essential to be included” OR “desirable to be included” you are invited to provide further details regarding what those measures are. (optional)
Page 5: Addressing the challenges of compensation/offsetting (7 questions, including 3 optional)
5.1. Compensation/offsetting measures can be carried out at, or in close proximity to, the site where the damage took place. This is so called “on site” compensation/offsetting. In some cases compensation/offsetting is done at another location, away from the site where the damage occured. This is so called “off-site” compensation/offsetting. We would like to get your opinion regarding “on-site” vs “off-site” compensation/offsetting. (tick, choose between four options)
5.2. Compensation/Offsetting can be designed to replace the biodiversity and the ecosystem services that are lost with the same kind of biodiversity and the same ecosystem services. This type of compensation/offsetting is referred to as “like for like” . In other cases, the biodiversity and/or ecosystem services that are lost, are replaced with biodiversity of a higher value and/or critical/priority ecosystem services although in such cases the area of land dedicated to the compensation/offset may be less than the area of the land where the damage occured. This type of compensation/offsetting is refered to as “trading up”. We would like to get your opinion concerning “like for like” vs “trading up”. (tick, choose between four options)
5.3. There are a number of issues relating to compensation/ offsetting that can have a significant impact on the success of the compensation/offset in terms of conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services. In the following questions we would like to get your opinion regarding these issues. (tick, level of importance)
- 5.3.1. Making sure that the compensation/offset is additional and that it represents a gain in biodiversity and/or ecosystem services that would not have happened without the compensation/offset. This is known as ‘additionality’.
- 5.3.2. Securing the compensation/offset over time and making sure that the compensation/offset is protected and managed appropriately.
- 5.3.3. Putting in place appropriate measures to monitor the compensation/offset and to enforce compliance with the conditions under which the compensation/offset is established.
- 5.3.4. The possibility of using compensation/offsetting measures strategically (e.g. pooling compensation/offsetting obligations linked to several different projects) in the framework of co-ordinated spatial planning in order to optimize the outcomes for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
5.4. In order to provide compensation/offsets you need to understand what is going to be lost in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services and you need to assess what will be gained by the compensation/offset. In this way you can make sure that the gain represented by the compensation/offset is at least equivalent to what is going to be lost. In this question we are asking for your opinion on how to assess losses and how to assess the value of the compensation/offset. (tick, choose between four options)
5.5. The final report of the contract “Policy Options for an EU No Net Loss Initiative” contains a number of recommendations relating to compensation/ offsetting. In the following series of questions we are seeking opinions concerning these recommendations. (optional, tick, level of agreement)
- 5.5.1. There should be a proportionate approach to metrics, with more streamlined procedures and simpler baseline studies and metrics for impacts that are low level, or which only affect widespread biodiversity and non-critical ecosystem services, but detailed, full assessments and metrics for more significant impacts
- 5.5.2. Compensation/Offsets should preferably be in place before the impact occurs, but if this is not possible, the issue of time preferences can be integrated into the metrics which are used to discount future benefits.
- 5.5.3. For non-threatened/common biodiversity, compensation in the form of payments into a trust fund (fee ‘in lieu’) could be allowed.
- 5.5.4. In relation to the location of compensation/offsets which take place off-site, “service areas” could be designated on a bio-geographic basis in which compensation/offsets could be implemented.
- 5.5.5. Compensation/Offsets can take quite a lot of time and resources to implement and therefore it may not be appropriate to require compensation/offsetting in cases where the impacts on biodiversity and/or ecosystem services are comparatively trivial and for this reason a threshold could be applied such that impacts below the threshold would not be subject to compensation/offsetting.
5.6. Are there any other issues concerning compensation/ofsetting that are not covered by the preceding questions in this section and which you consider should be taken into account? (optional)
5.7. Which national (voluntary or mandatory) measures on compensation/offsets are you aware of and how effective are they ( excluding national measures transposing the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Environmental Liability Directive)? (optional)
Page 6: Closing questions (3 questions, including 2 optional)
6.1. Do you have additional comments that you would like to make concerning the development of the No Net Loss initiative? (optional)
6.2. Do you have any comments you would like to make concerning the consultation and the questionnaire? (optional)
6.3. Do you accept to be contacted by the Commission in the event that further details concerning your replies would be helpful? (tick, yes/no)
Explanations on key terms in the scope of the EU consultation
The term ‘mitigation hierarchy’ refers to a systematic, step-wise intervention logic that is routinely applied in the case of actions that are expected to damage biodiversity and/or ecosystem services. The first step in the sequence is AVOIDANCE-can the damage be avoided e.g. by either not carrying out the action or carrying out the action somewhere else? The next step in the sequence is REDUCTION, and at this stage the emphasis is on reducing the damage as much as possible both at the design stage and during implementation. Once the action has been carried out, in some cases, it may be possible to do RESTORATION work e.g. if an underground pipeline is to be installed, this will cause damage when heavy machinery is brought on site and also when the excavation and construction work takes place. However, when the work is completed and the construction machinery is removed, the site can be restored. Finally, if, despite all best efforts to avoid, reduce and restore, there is still residual damage, this damage should be compensated/offset.
In summary the mitigation hierarchy includes the following steps:
AVOIDANCE -> REDUCTION -> RESTORATION -> COMPENSATION/OFFSETTING
The steps in the hierarchy should be addressed in sequence and steps should not be omitted.
Drivers of biodiversity loss
The main drivers of biodiversity loss and the loss of ecosystem services are: land-use change, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change. However, it may not be effective, or efficient, to include all of these drivers within the scope of the future EU initiative on No Net Loss. If a major driver of biodiversity loss is excluded from the scope of the future initiative, this does not mean that the driver is no longer regarded as important within the context of the EU biodiversity strategy. Conversely, drivers should not be included within the scope of the initiative if it it is clear in advance that the initiative will be of limited/no added value in reducing the loss of biodiversity or ecosystem services linked to this driver.
The negative impact on biodiversity is just one of many reasons for tackling climate change. Climate change mitigation, through the reduction of green house gas emissions, is being addressed at the global level in the framework of the UN Convention on Climate Change. The EU is taking a leading role in this process. The inclusion of climate change within the scope of the future EU No Net Loss initiative will have little, or no, impact on this international process and no added value for reducing biodiversity loss. Climate change will therefore not be covered by the future initiative.
In the case of atmospheric pollution, the impacts on biodiversity are predominantly related to transboundary processes and here also there are international conventions (e.g.UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution) linked with comprehensive EU legislation and policies. Point sources of pollution to freshwater are also subject to comprehensive controls at the EU and national levels as is the disposal of waste to landfill. The Commission is therefore of the opinion that these drivers/pressures on biodiversity should not be covered by the scope of the future initiative on No Net Loss.
In the light of the above reflections, the Commission’s intention is to limit the scope of the future EU initiative on No Net Loss to land-use change, over-exploitation of natural resources and diffuse pollution to water and to soil.
Compensation or biodiversity offsets
Compensation/offsetting is the last step in the mitigation hierarchy. For the purposes of the present questionnaire the term “compensation” and the term “offsetting” will be regarded as synonymous and will be understood to mean actions taken to address residual impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services which remain after the other steps in the mitigation hierarchy have been applied and with the objective of achieving No Net Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Compensation/offsetting is an essential part of the mitigation hierarchy but effective implementation can be very challenging. In this section we seek to get opinions regarding some of the key issues.