New report on strengthening the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy by Hayes et al.

strengthening the mitigation hierarchyThanks to Genevieve Hayes and Samir Whitaker from BirdLife for shar­ing their lat­est report on the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy. Over a period of 9 months the team (BirdLife Inter­na­tional, United Nations Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­gramme – World Con­ser­va­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre (UNEP-WCMC), Royal Soci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Birds (RSPB), Fauna and Flora Inter­na­tional (FFI) and the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge) have worked on a CCI Col­lab­o­ra­tive Fund project titled ‘Strength­en­ing imple­men­ta­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy: man­ag­ing bio­di­ver­sity risk for con­ser­va­tion gains’ – the aim and focus of the research has been on improv­ing under­stand­ing and col­lat­ing prac­ti­cal knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence on the Avoid stage of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy, to bet­ter inform how it should be ‘done’. The research stage of the project is now com­plete and the final report is avail­able, based on which they will soon begin the next phase: engage­ment and sup­port for the imple­men­ta­tion and mon­i­tor­ing of the Avoid stage.

You can access the full report online and see the report overview and sum­mary copied below.

Report overview

This report includes:

  • A sum­mary of leg­isla­tive frame­works, Inter­na­tional Finance Insti­tu­tion (IFI) stan­dards and vol­un­tary stan­dards rel­e­vant to the avoid­ance stage of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and col­lates exam­ples of how dif­fer­ent poli­cies enable and/or impede effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion (Sec­tion 3).
  • Case stud­ies from min­ing, oil & gas, energy, infra­struc­ture, hous­ing, forestry and agri­cul­ture to illus­trate dif­fer­ent ways in which impacts have been avoided in prac­tice (Sec­tion 4).
  • Analy­sis of the bar­ri­ers to wide­spread uptake and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of avoid­ance strate­gies to reduce bio­di­ver­sity impacts (Sec­tion 5).
  • Rec­om­men­da­tions for Gov­ern­ment, Cor­po­rate Sec­tor, IFIs, and Non-Government Organ­i­sa­tions (NGOs)/civil soci­ety to sup­port the suc­cess­ful uptake and imple­men­ta­tion of impact avoid­ance strate­gies and improve the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy (Sec­tion 6).

The find­ings of this report are based on a review of nine regional and national leg­isla­tive frame­works and the analy­sis of 18 case stud­ies selected from the rec­om­men­da­tions of experts in the field. Dis­cus­sions were also held with key indi­vid­u­als such as site level Envi­ron­men­tal Man­agers, Project Engi­neers, as well as con­sul­tants, NGOs and indi­vid­u­als from IFIs (see Appen­dix (i) for more detail).


The scale and pace of devel­op­ment is inten­si­fy­ing across the min­ing, oil & gas, agri­cul­ture, infra­struc­ture, forestry and hous­ing sec­tors. Such rapid and large scale expan­sion in com­mer­cial devel­op­ment threat­ens to irre­versibly trans­form land­scapes around the world, putting pres­sure on bio­di­ver­sity and the peo­ple that depend on it for their liveli­hoods and well-being.

Under­stand­ing the eco­log­i­cal and social impacts of pro­posed devel­op­ment and plan­ning appro­pri­ate mea­sures to mit­i­gate those impacts wher­ever pos­si­ble is crit­i­cal. The mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy is a process that when used prop­erly can ensure that devel­op­ment results in No Net Loss (NNL) of, or a Net Pos­i­tive Impact (NPI) on bio­di­ver­sity. It involves four key stages begin­ning with the avoid­ance of impacts. Where avoid­ance is not pos­si­ble, the devel­oper must seek to min­i­mize impacts and restore areas. The last stage, and final resort, is to con­sider the poten­tial to off­set resid­ual impacts. Given the inher­ent risks and uncer­tainty involved with off­set­ting, it should only ever be under­taken as a last resort, when harm to bio­di­ver­sity can­not be avoided or mit­i­gated. If it is not pos­si­ble to avoid, min­i­mize or ade­quately off­set harm, the devel­op­ment should not pro­ceed.
The first and arguably most impor­tant stage in the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy — avoid­ance — requires that “mea­sures [are] taken to antic­i­pate and pre­vent adverse impacts on bio­di­ver­sity before actions or deci­sions are taken that could lead to such impacts” (CSBI, 2015). Effec­tive impact avoid­ance is vital to achiev­ing NNL or NPI goals and reduc­ing busi­ness risk. Yet in prac­tice, impact avoid­ance is often over­looked, mis­un­der­stood and poorly applied. There is also a paucity of infor­ma­tion avail­able to sup­port the design and imple­men­ta­tion of effec­tive avoid­ance strategies.

This report has been brought together through the col­lab­o­ra­tion of BirdLife Inter­na­tional, UNEP-WCMC, FFI, RSPB and the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge in a project funded by the Cam­bridge Con­ser­va­tion Ini­tia­tive. The pur­pose of the project is to strengthen the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy by pro­mot­ing wide­spread and effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of avoid­ance strate­gies in order to safe­guard bio­di­ver­sity and sup­port NNL or NPI goals. Using 18 case stud­ies and a reg­u­la­tory review from 9 regions, the project analy­ses the dri­vers for impact avoid­ance, iden­ti­fies prac­ti­cal exam­ples of avoid­ance mea­sures from a range of sec­tors and geo­gra­phies, high­lights poten­tial bar­ri­ers to the wide­spread adop­tion of effec­tive impact avoid­ance and pro­vides rec­om­mended actions to strengthen the appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and max­imise impact avoid­ance potential.

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