Consultation of the EU on the No Net Loss Initiative (including biodiversity offsets) — Have your say today!

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

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

The most impor­tant infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing the con­sul­ta­tion can be found here (and the press release

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

Mit­i­ga­tion Hierarchy

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:


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.


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