Results of the No Net Loss Public Consultation now available online!

Results of the Consultation on the EU No Net Loss InitiativeAs many have impa­tiently waited for it, I am happy to announce that the results of the Euro­pean Commission’s pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on its planned No Net Loss Ini­tia­tive are pub­lished online on the web­site of the Euro­pean Commission.

The inter­net con­sul­ta­tion was launched on 6 June 2014, ask­ing inter­ested cit­i­zens, pub­lic author­i­ties, busi­ness and NGOs for their views on a future No Net Loss Ini­tia­tive at EU level. Ideas and com­ments were wel­come on how to develop the pol­icy, the scope and the scale of the ini­tia­tive; which dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss and which eco­nomic sec­tors to include; how to tackle the chal­lenges related to off­set­ting and the choice of pol­icy instru­ments to use. The con­sul­ta­tion was closed on the 17 Octo­ber. The Com­mis­sion received 723 replies.

The results of the No Net Loss pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion were grouped into four categories:

Sta­tis­tics: In the sta­tis­tics, only the ‘closed’, mul­ti­ple choice ques­tions are recorded, not the ques­tions with open answers.

Charts: The charts visu­ally present the sta­tis­ti­cal mate­r­ial. They are based only on the ‘closed’ mul­ti­ple choice questions.

Sum­mary Report: The report sum­marises the answers of all ques­tions, i.e. also tak­ing into account the com­ments, expla­na­tions and qual­i­fi­ca­tions given in the open, ‘free text’ ques­tions. As this is the most inter­est­ing part of the analy­sis, I have copied the sum­mary report below. You can also direct­loy retrieve the pdf here: No Net Loss of Bio­di­ver­sity pub­lic consultation

All indi­vid­ual answers: All the answers sent in via the on-line pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion are fully pub­lished here. The name and association/company/organisation of the respon­dents ask­ing to be anony­mous have been deleted.

Sum­mary report

The sum­mary sta­tis­tics accom­pa­ny­ing this note are based on the “closed ques­tions” which were included in the ques­tion­naire. How­ever, the ques­tion­naire also pro­vided for “free text” responses where respon­dents could explain their answers/positions. In prepar­ing the present sum­mary the mate­r­ial appear­ing in these “free-text” fields has also been taken into account.


The answers received were from all EU Mem­ber States, with the excep­tion of Croa­tia, Lithua­nia and Slo­va­kia. Almost half of the responses came from respon­dents in France and Ger­many. The responses from indi­vid­u­als were in major­ity, fol­lowed by NGOs and then com­pa­nies and busi­ness asso­ci­a­tions. How­ever, it is impor­tant to note that those answer­ing as indi­vid­u­als often were asso­ci­ated with an inter­est group. For exam­ple, many answers came on behalf of hunters and most of these were reg­is­tered as indi­vid­u­als. For the group NGOs, the envi­ron­men­tal NGOs were clearly in major­ity, though other civil soci­ety groups were also rep­re­sented, such as local forestry and wood­land inter­ests or local com­mu­nity groups. In the busi­ness group, large com­pa­nies and busi­ness asso­ci­a­tions dom­i­nated. Under the group “gov­ern­ments”, there were national, regional and local respondents.

Scope of the NNL initiative

A major­ity of the respon­dents did not agree with the sug­ges­tion of focussing a future ini­tia­tive on land-use change and dif­fuse pol­lu­tion. Many of the respon­dents argued in favour of a wider scope encom­pass­ing all the major dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss includ­ing in par­tic­u­lar, cli­mate change.
A large major­ity felt that agri­cul­ture, forestry, fish­eries and aqua­cul­ture were pri­or­ity sec­tors for inclu­sion in a future ini­tia­tive. There were also calls for the scope to cover all eco­nomic sec­tors in order to include all pres­sures on bio­di­ver­sity.
A sig­nif­i­cant major­ity of respon­dents was of the opin­ion that a NNL ini­tia­tive should focus only on ter­ri­to­ries out­side Natura 2000 areas.
A large major­ity felt that the NNL ini­tia­tive should cover the ter­res­trial and marine envi­ron­ment from the start.

Mit­i­ga­tion hierarchy

There was a strong agree­ment that respect­ing the prin­ci­ples of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy was essen­tial for achiev­ing the objec­tive of No Net Loss.


On off­set­ting, slightly over half of the respon­dents were pos­i­tive to the inclu­sion of
offsetting/compensation mea­sures in a future EU ini­tia­tive on No Net Loss. How­ever, for about 70% of those respond­ing pos­i­tively, such sup­port was con­di­tional on strict mea­sures and robust safe­guards being in place to avoid abuses. Some of the respon­dents that were, in prin­ci­ple, sup­port­ive of offsetting/compensation, expressed con­cerns regard­ing the capac­ity of national and local admin­is­tra­tions to ensure proper implementation.

Pol­icy options

In order to achieve No Net Loss, most respon­dents saw an added value in imple­ment­ing exist­ing leg­is­la­tion bet­ter, but there was cau­tion in re-opening leg­is­la­tion such as the Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Assess­ment Reg­u­la­tion (EIA), the Strate­gic Envi­ron­men­tal Assess­ment reg­u­la­tion (SEA), the EU Forestry Strat­egy and the Com­mon Agri­cul­ture Pol­icy (CAP) to ensure no net loss. Many respon­dents sup­ported the bio­di­ver­sity proof­ing of the EU bud­get. A major­ity was against devel­op­ing an EU level legal frame­work for compensation/offsetting. How­ever, the devel­op­ment of a vol­un­tary frame­work includ­ing tech­ni­cal guid­ance and bench­mark­ing of good prac­tice did attract major­ity support.

Tech­ni­cal mea­sures related to offsetting/compensation

Given that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of respon­dents were against the inclu­sion of offsetting/compensation in any future EU No Net Loss ini­tia­tive and that the major­ity of respon­dents were against a bind­ing EU leg­is­la­tion on offsetting/compensation, the responses to the more detailed tech­ni­cal ques­tions linked to offsetting/compensation should be treated with cau­tion.
Indeed, many respon­dents indi­cated that since they did not sup­port off­set­ting in this con­text, they found the ques­tions on the design of off­set­ting schemes to be inap­pro­pri­ate and/or too tech­ni­cal and detailed. What can be under­stood from the answers is the impor­tance of issues such as addi­tion­al­ity, secur­ing off­sets over time, robust met­rics and strict mon­i­tor­ing and enforce­ment.
Some sec­tor spe­cific answers are reported in the sec­tor analy­sis below.

Responses by Sector/Group

Envi­ron­men­tal NGOs

Many from the envi­ron­men­tal NGOs wanted a wider scope where all dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss are addressed, includ­ing cli­mate change, air pol­lu­tion and dif­fuse pol­lu­tion. Many among this group of respon­dents con­sid­ered that every eco­nomic sec­tor with an impact on bio­di­ver­sity should be included within the scope of a future ini­tia­tive with a major­ity iden­ti­fy­ing the agri­cul­ture and forestry sec­tors as pri­or­i­ties. A small minor­ity was against the con­cept of NNL alto­gether argu­ing that such an approach started from an accep­tance that con­tin­ued losses were inevitable.The major­ity of the respon­dents in this group felt that the Birds and Habi­tats Direc­tives pro­vided a good frame­work for pro­tect­ing threat­ened or rare species. A large major­ity was in favour of con­cen­trat­ing the NNL ini­tia­tive on areas out­side Natura 2000.
The envi­ron­men­tal NGOs were all in favour of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and a stricter imple­men­ta­tion and appli­ca­tion of it. How­ever, the major­ity were against the inclu­sion of off­set­ting in the NNL ini­tia­tive argu­ing that it was a “licence to trash”, that it would be “abused”, that the polit­i­cal tim­ing was not right, that it was too com­plex and that the insti­tu­tional capac­ity to imple­ment and mon­i­tor such an approach was not avail­able in the major­ity of Mem­ber States. Even those NGOs that were sup­port­ive of doing some­thing in rela­tion to off­set­ting were very pes­simistic about the capac­ity of the Mem­ber States to ensure the nec­es­sary mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol. Many were against off­set­ting as a prin­ci­ple, evok­ing the irre­place­abil­ity and the inher­ent value of bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices.
In gen­eral the NGOs were not in favour of manda­tory off­set­ting or ded­i­cated EU leg­is­la­tion on off­set­ting. There was strong sup­port for bio­di­ver­sity proof­ing of the EU bud­get. Most were against the review/revision of exist­ing leg­is­la­tion although many sup­ported the idea of improved imple­men­ta­tion of exist­ing leg­is­la­tion. For many, if an EU ini­tia­tive on NNL were to take place it should be in the form of a Com­mu­ni­ca­tion estab­lish­ing prin­ci­ples, facil­i­tat­ing best prac­tice and com­mit­ting the EU to deliver NNL in its own poli­cies.
In terms of the tech­ni­cal issues linked to off­set­ting the responses were quite diverse but there was a ten­dency towards the most cau­tious approaches. Sev­eral NGOs indi­cated that they missed being con­sulted on whether an NNL ini­tia­tive was nec­es­sary at all. If off­sets were to be allowed, like-forlike was pre­ferred and the major­ity was against fees in lieu and the pool­ing of offsets.

Other NGOs

Most of the other NGOs rep­re­sented local forestry and wood­land inter­ests. They con­sider that the case for an NNL ini­tia­tive has not been proven. They hold the view that forestry and agri­cul­ture are not impor­tant dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss. They do not sup­port the inclu­sion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy or the inclu­sion of off­set­ting in any future NNL ini­tia­tive. This group also ques­tions the util­ity of EU level instru­ments, being of the opin­ion that we should rely more on national/local/individual ini­tia­tives to pro­tect the biodiversity.

Com­pa­nies and Busi­ness Associations

Many from the busi­ness com­mu­nity ques­tioned the added-value of a NNL ini­tia­tive. Con­cern­ing the scope, the sec­tors iden­ti­fied in the ques­tion­naire mainly felt they were unjustly iden­ti­fied as dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss. They claimed the scope should include all or none of the eco­nomic sec­tors. Many argued that sec­tors that already are reg­u­lated via EU or national leg­is­la­tion should be excluded from any fur­ther reg­u­la­tion. Most were against includ­ing dif­fuse pol­lu­tion, but would sug­gest adding cli­mate change.
There was a strong focus on sub­sidiar­ity and a strong insis­tence that most sec­tors are already heav­ily reg­u­lated. They also ques­tioned the cost of a NNL ini­tia­tive and in par­tic­u­lar the bur­den of the addi­tional costs asso­ci­ated with a strict appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and the imple­men­ta­tion of an off­set­ting pro­gramme. Apply­ing the pol­luter pays prin­ci­ple, these costs would­fall on the devel­oper, which was con­sid­ered a bar­rier to eco­nomic devel­op­ment. In addi­tion, many felt there would be addi­tional admin­is­tra­tive costs and a fear for more red-tape and bureau­cracy.
Many in the busi­ness com­mu­nity were pos­i­tive to off­set­ting as a prin­ci­ple, mainly at the national level, but they saw lit­tle scope for an EU level scheme, par­tic­u­larly not a leg­isla­tive frame­work.
Sev­eral pointed to the fact that Mem­ber States already have dif­fi­cul­ties cop­ing with the bur­den of exist­ing leg­is­la­tion and that the answer to the prob­lem was not to add more leg­is­la­tion but to ensure that the exist­ing leg­is­la­tion is imple­mented effec­tively. Many sug­gested that the EU NNL ini­tia­tive should take the form of a Com­mu­ni­ca­tion focus­ing on bet­ter imple­men­ta­tion of exist­ing leg­is­la­tion, the pro­mo­tion of off­set­ting pilot schemes and the exchange of best prac­tise.
The def­i­n­i­tions used in the ques­tion­naire and in the study under­pin­ning the NNL ini­tia­tive were fre­quently ques­tioned by the busi­ness com­mu­nity. They required bet­ter def­i­n­i­tions of “over­ex­ploita­tion of nat­ural resources”, “pol­lu­tion” and “land-use change”. They also asked for the socioe­co­nomic fac­tors and impli­ca­tions to be bet­ter analysed and included in an even­tual NNL ini­tia­tive.
On the tech­ni­cal mea­sures linked to off­sets, many of the busi­ness com­mu­nity would not agree to the require­ment of hav­ing off­sets in place before the devel­op­ment project takes place, since the time fac­tor was con­sid­ered a seri­ous obsta­cle for eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Many were in favour of using fees in lieu as well as allow­ing for off­sets to take place in Natura 2000 areas.

Agri­cul­ture and forestry

The agri­cul­ture and forestry sec­tors’ com­ments cor­re­sponded to a large extend with the busi­ness community’s. They were mainly against an NNL ini­tia­tive, since they con­sid­ered that the indus­try would lose pos­si­ble arable land twice: once through a devel­op­ment tak­ing place and sec­ondly by a com­pen­sa­tion mea­sure tak­ing place on poten­tially pro­duc­tive land.
Con­cern­ing the scope of the NNL ini­tia­tive, the agri­cul­ture and forestry sec­tors argued that they have lit­tle impact on bio­di­ver­sity and that soil seal­ing, linked to urban devel­op­ment and infra­struc­ture is the main dri­ver of bio­di­ver­sity loss. In addi­tion, it is argued that the agri­cul­ture sec­tor is heav­ily con­trolled via the CAP and should there­fore be excluded from any new legal con­straints.
The agri­cul­ture sec­tor strongly opposed includ­ing dif­fuse pol­lu­tion into the NNL ini­tia­tive.
The mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy was con­sid­ered impor­tant, but already imple­mented in a suf­fi­cient way via the EIA and the SEA reg­u­la­tions and the Bird and Habi­tats direc­tives.
The sub­sidiar­ity prin­ci­ple was empha­sized. There was a rejec­tion of any EU leg­isla­tive frame­work on off­set­ting. Many also expressed con­cerns that the land use plan­ning would be affected by a NNL ini­tia­tive, and that would be out­side EU com­pe­tences. How­ever, the EU could play a role in pro­mot­ing vol­un­tary national/regional off­set­ting schemes and facil­i­tat­ing the exchange of best prac­tise.
Many indi­cated that the NNL con­cept is a new one and that there is lack of analy­sis of poten­tial costs or added-value.

Hunters (France)

Over 100 responses were received from hunters in France. Approx­i­mately 2/3 of these responses were from indi­vid­u­als and 1/3 from hunt­ing asso­ci­a­tions. With a few excep­tions these responses fol­lowed the same pat­tern — against the choice of scope/drivers; against the NNL ini­tia­tive being focussed out­side Natura 2000; to regard all sec­tors as impor­tant in rela­tion to bio­di­ver­sity loss; to insist that hunters be bet­ter treated and be involved in the dis­cus­sions and deci­sion mak­ing; to sup­port the con­cept of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy; to be against inclu­sion of off­set­ting in the NNL ini­tia­tive and to be against any mea­sures or actions.

Hunters (Oth­ers)

Other hunters asso­ci­a­tions rep­re­sent­ing regional, national or EU level posi­tions were gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of the need for a No Net Loss ini­tia­tive, a focus out­side the Natura 2000 net­work and the inclu­sion of off­set­ting in a future ini­tia­tive on NNL. Empha­sis was placed on the need to involve local actors and in par­tic­u­lar hunters. These groups were not sup­port­ive of new leg­is­la­tion at the level of the EU but under­lined the need to ensure effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies already in place.

Other orga­ni­za­tions

The national, regional and local governments/administrations/agencies that replied were gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of the analy­sis, while rec­og­niz­ing the polit­i­cal, legal and tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. There were rec­om­men­da­tions to pro­ceed with cau­tion, con­sid­er­ing the lack of capac­ity, (human and finan­cial), in the admin­is­tra­tions. There was a con­cern that addi­tion­al­ity would be dif­fi­cult to ensure, con­sid­er­ing that many Mem­ber States have a lack of avail­able land. Answers from acad­e­mia and research raised the dif­fi­cul­ties with met­rics, how to value bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices and the expe­ri­ences made in other schemes internationally.


This group offered a wide diver­sity. Many were con­cerned cit­i­zens express­ing their worry over con­tin­u­ous loss of bio­di­ver­sity. The major­ity wanted an enlarged scope of the NNL ini­tia­tive, includ­ing all poli­cies and all eco­nomic sec­tors. Most were in favour of a strict appli­ca­tion of the mit­i­ga­tion hier­ar­chy and improved imple­men­ta­tion of exist­ing leg­is­la­tion. Off­set­ting was in many cases con­sid­ered as a pos­i­tive prin­ci­ple, but many still expressed doubts of how it would be imple­mented (cor­rup­tion, licence to trash, lack of resources for enforce­ment etc.). Oth­ers con­sid­ered off­set­ting an unac­cept­able con­cept, with the ref­er­ence to the irre­place­abil­ity of bio­di­ver­sity. Many
expressed a “reg­u­la­tion fatigue” and did not see the inter­est of any EU leg­is­la­tion on NNL. A minor­ity asked for EU leg­is­la­tion on compensation/offsetting in order for bio­di­ver­sity to be pro­tected in a coher­ent way across Mem­ber States. Many respon­dents felt the ques­tion­naire to be far too tech­ni­cal and detailed.


Results of the No Net Loss Public Consultation now available online! — 2 Comments

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