NEW ARTICLE: The Biodiversity Offsetting Dilemma: Between Economic Rationales and Ecological Dynamics

Author(s):  Coralie Cal­vet, Claude Napoléone and Jean-Michel Salles

Title: The Bio­di­ver­sity Off­set­ting Dilemma: Between Eco­nomic Ratio­nales and Eco­log­i­cal Dynamics

Year: 2015

In:Sus­tain­abil­ity 2015, 7(6), 7357–7378; doi:10.3390/su7067357

Pages: pages 7357–7378.

Pub­li­ca­tion type: open access jour­nal article

Lan­guage: English

Source:–1050/6/6/3400/htm (full text) and pdf


Although many coun­tries have included bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting (BO) require­ments in their envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions over the past four decades, this mech­a­nism has recently been the object of renewed polit­i­cal inter­est. Incor­po­rated into the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy in three steps aimed at avoid­ing, reduc­ing and off­set­ting resid­ual impacts on bio­di­ver­sity aris­ing from devel­op­ment projects, BO is pro­moted as the way to achieve the polit­i­cal goal of No Net Loss of bio­di­ver­sity (NNL). The recent suc­cess of BO is mainly based on its abil­ity to pro­vide eco­nomic incen­tives for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion. How­ever, the diver­sity of BO mech­a­nisms (direct off­sets, bank­ing mech­a­nism and off­set­ting funds) and the var­i­ous insti­tu­tional frame­works within which they are applied gen­er­ate sub­stan­tial con­fu­sion about their eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal impli­ca­tions. In this arti­cle, we first ana­lyze the ratio­nale for the BO approach from the wel­fare and eco­log­i­cal eco­nom­ics. We show that both these frame­works sup­port the use of BO to address envi­ron­men­tal exter­nal­i­ties, but that they dif­fer in how they con­sider the sub­sti­tutabil­ity issue and lev­els of sus­tain­abil­ity with regard to nat­ural and man­u­fac­tured cap­i­tal, and in how they address eco­log­i­cal con­cerns. We then exam­ine the eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal per­for­mance cri­te­ria of BO from con­cep­tual and empir­i­cal per­spec­tives. We high­light that the three BO mech­a­nisms involve dif­fer­ent eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal log­ics and inher­ent ben­e­fits, but also poten­tial risks in meet­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion tar­gets. We lastly inves­ti­gate the eco­log­i­cal con­straints with respect to the BO prac­tice, and eco­nomic and orga­ni­za­tional lim­i­ta­tions of the BO sys­tem that may impede achieve­ment of NNL goals. We then reveal the exis­tence of a ten­sion between the eco­nomic and eco­log­i­cal ratio­nales in con­duct­ing BO that requires mak­ing choices about the NNL pol­icy objec­tives. Finally, this arti­cle ques­tions the place of BO in con­ser­va­tion poli­cies and dis­cusses the trade-off between polit­i­cal will and eco­log­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties involved in the BO approach.
bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion; bio­di­ver­sity off­sets; eco­log­i­cal com­pen­sa­tion; eco­nomic incen­tives; envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies; human well-being; nat­ural cap­i­tal; no net loss; sub­sti­tutabil­ity; weak and strong sustainability

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