SHORT INFO: Biodiversity offsets — a balancing act

What’s it about in short: Steve Edwards of IUCN’s Busi­ness and Bio­di­ver­sity Pro­gramme explains how gov­ern­ment and busi­ness are look­ing at ways to com­pen­sate for the impacts of devel­op­ment on biodiversity.

When was it released: Jan­u­ary 15, 2015

By whom: IUCN

More info:

Short extract:

As imple­ment­ing bio­di­ver­sity off­sets is a long-term exer­cise, there are as yet, lim­ited exam­ples. Some that are show­ing promise include off­sets that are in progress such as at Rio Tinto’s QIT Mada­gas­car Min­er­als (QMM) site or reg­u­la­tions around off­sets in New South Wales, Aus­tralia.

Aside from bio­di­ver­sity impacts, there are many cul­tural and social aspects to con­sider, mak­ing the con­cept of off­sets com­plex and con­tro­ver­sial. Con­cerns are being raised that off­sets are being used as a ‘licence to trash’ and that lost bio­di­ver­sity can­not be replaced. Oth­ers warn against the ‘com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion’ of bio­di­ver­sity. Another crit­i­cism is the dan­ger of ‘cost shift­ing’, for exam­ple, when fund­ing for off­sets for species pro­tec­tion poten­tially erodes gov­ern­ment respon­si­bil­ity for nature conservation.

At the same time, how­ever, pro­po­nents of off­sets say that they can poten­tially gen­er­ate impor­tant invest­ment in bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, par­tic­u­larly in coun­tries where it could not oth­er­wise be afforded.

Sev­eral of IUCN’s mem­ber organ­i­sa­tions have been involved in advis­ing gov­ern­ment and indus­try on off­sets for sev­eral years. But with the emer­gence of off­sets, both vol­un­tary and reg­u­la­tory, there is lack of clar­ity on what they mean, how to design and imple­ment them, and what mech­a­nisms can be put in place to ensure they are used prop­erly, and even more impor­tantly, when off­sets can­not or should not be used. Some poli­cies exist at a national and regional level but none that can be uni­ver­sally applied.

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