Counter event to the No Net Loss Conference: 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons on 2 June 2014 in London
Critics of Biodiversity Offsets have a growing lobby, especially in the UK, where the government seems to rush wanting to push through the concept of Biodiversity Offsets, no matter at what expense and quality. As a result a number of biodiversity offset pilots that have been trialed are facing severe criticism and resistance, mostly by the local population and NGOs such as FERN. As a result, a strong opposition against Biodiversity Offsets has been formed.
So, not surprisingly, opponents against Biodiversity Offsets have also seen the No Net Loss Conference in the London Zoo (see my previous post “BBOP holds first No Net Loss Conference on Biodiversity Offsets, June, 3 – 4, 2014, London”: http://www.biodiversityoffsets.net/bbop-holds-first-no-net-loss-conference-biodiversity-offsets/) critically and have organised a counter event on the eve of the conference: Nature is not for sale! 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons on 2 June 2014 at the Regent’s Park Hub, London.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend this event, so I can only cite the information made available on the internet.
Invitation to the 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons
“The UK government appears hell-bent on pushing through biodiversity offsetting – which will allow wildlife and habitats to be destroyed across the country, so long as it is ‘replaced’ elsewhere.
The policy is inherently flawed: biodiversity offsetting ignores the difficulties in recreating ecosystems, it overlooks the uniqueness of different habitats, and it disregards the importance of nature for local communities. Once a harmful development project goes ahead, communities lose access to it forever.
We believe it’s time to make space for nature and communities. At the 2nd Forum on Natural Commons, we bring together NGOs, academics, activists and the general public to discuss nature as a common good that benefits us all. Join us!”
Agenda of the 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons
You can find the Agenda of the 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons on the website of FERN: http://www.fern.org/publications/presentations/nature-not-sale or see details pasted below:
Panel 1: New directions in conservation: a closer look at ‘value’ and offsetting.
A new conservation paradigm is emerging among policy makers; that in order to properly protect nature, it must be given a ‘proper value’. This usually means setting up ways to measure ecosystems and biodiversity in terms of pounds, dollars and euros so that nature, industry and economic growth can all appear on the same balance sheet.
This potent narrative underwrites much of the political energy that is currently directed at developing systems of ‘biodiversity offsetting’ around the world. Central to the concept is the idea that the ‘value’ of any particular item of biodiversity can be assessed against others and units of biodiversity value can be added up, divided and shifted around like figures in a spreadsheet. This is at the heart of the thinking behind ‘no net loss’ initiatives. It is an appealing (but fundamentally flawed) idea because it divorces the ‘value’ of biodiversity from the complex ecological, social and geographic relations that allow that biodiversity to exist.
Where did this new narrative for ‘value’ come from and how is it being engineered? Why is it treated as self-evident by policy makers and what does it conceal? This panel explores the new directions in global conservation policy, the difficult question of ‘value’ and its emergent role in environmental governance.
Facilitator: Sian Sullivan
o Jutta Kill, World Rainforest Movement
o John O’Neill, Manchester University
o Morgan Robertson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
o Mike Hannis, Bath Spa university and The Land magazine
Panel 2: Biodiversity offsetting and community rights
Access to nature is important for people’s well-being, health, prosperity and happiness. Whether shale gas, a new road or a large housing development, new development projects have an undoubtable environmental and social impact.
Biodiversity offsetting propagates the myth that people and nature are completely separate, by promising to neutralize the environmental impact of development by protecting or improving biodiversity elsewhere. This may lead to an increase in developments that infringe on community rights and access to nature. Land set aside for conservation within an offsetting scheme could lead to further land grabbing, taking land out of the hands of communities in order to serve corporate ‘environmental’ interests.
Nature is not something we can have elsewhere: it is not separate from people – this is the myth that offsetting propagates. We need to learn to live sustainably, meaning we need to challenge unneeded development, and make sure that development that does happen is as sustainable as possible.
What are the impacts of biodiversity offsetting likely to be on the ground, and what will it mean for communities struggling against development proposals? Owen Paterson MP said that offsets should be an hour’s drive away – but how far is too far? And is this really the point? This panel explores the implications of biodiversity offsetting on people, and how community rights are articulated in the global North and South.
Facilitator: Fred Pearce, Journalist
o Ian Scoones, co-director STEPS Centre
o Peter J Howard, Member of Landscape Research group
o Kathryn McWhirter, resident of Balcombe and Shale Gas campaigner
o Sylvia Kay, Transnational Institute
o Sarah Walters, woodland manager, Alvecote Wood
Follow-up on the 2nd Forum on the Natural Commons
The event was considered a success by the organisers, including presentations by the following speakers:
- Jutta Kill, World Rainforest Movement
- John O’Neill, Manchester University
- Morgan Robertson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Mike Hannis, Bath Spa university and The Land magazine
- Ian Scoones, co-director STEPS Centre
- Peter J Howard, Member of Landscape Research group
- Kathryn McWhirter, resident of Balcombe and Shale Gas campaigner
- Sylvia Kay, Transnational Institute
- Sarah Walters, woodland manager, Alvecote Wood
You can find some of the presentations on the FERN website: http://www.fern.org/publications/presentations/nature-not-sale
Mike Hannis gave an example of an offsetting project in the UK and the offset calculation using Defra’s scoring Matrix: Thaxted offsets, http://www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/Hannis%20-Thaxted%20offsets.pdf
Peter Howard spoke on cultural landscape and the ‘ordinary’ undesignated landscape vs. designated natural areas: Landscape and Communities, http://www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/Howard_Landscape%20and%20Communities.pdf
Sylvia Kay unveiled the EU’s farming policies: Land for the few, http://www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/Kay%20-%20Land%20for%20the%20few.pdf
John O’Neill gave an overview on some definitions and concepts related to biodiversity offsets: biodiversity banking, ecosystem services and no net loss. He made an analogy to ZsaZsa Gabors secret to eternal youth: Markets in Biodiversity. Keeping your biodiversity healthy, http://www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/O%27Neill%20Nature%20is%20not%20for%20sale.pdf
“Zsa Zsa:“Ah! People misunderstand me! They think that I am just a creature of leisure, that I do nothing useful, but they are wrong. I am constantly finding new ways to do good forpeople.”Interviewer:“Like what?” Zsa Zsa:“I have found a way of keeping myhusband young and healthy, almost forever.” Interviewer:“Eternal youth… that is quite adiscovery! How do you do it?” Zsa Zsa:“I get a new one every five years!”
Sarah Walters argued why Biodiversity were a flawed concept illustrated by another UK example: Alvecote Wood. Biodiversity Offsetting in relation to Ancient Woodland, http://www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/Walters%20Alvecote%20Wood.pdf
“Offsetting needs to do the following:
- Be the LAST resort
- Exclude high value and irreplaceable habitats
- Led by the local community who say if, what, how and where
- Based on potential of habitat
- Based on independent, trained assessors who must consult community and local experts and take time to study the habitat
It can’t be done on the cheap”
Fotos of the event can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ricjl/sets/72157645618786743/
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