SHORT INFO: When biodiversity offsetting can benefit nature

What’s it about in short: Giv­ing exam­ples from the UK con­text (Net­work Rail), Julia Baker argues that there are sit­u­a­tions when the frame­work for bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting can ben­e­fit nature — and help us achieve our 2020 tar­get of halt­ing bio­di­ver­sity loss.

When was it released: Sep­tem­ber, 2016

By whom: IALE UK, Julia Baker

More info:, see also the related LinkedIn discussion

Short extract:

Bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting is con­tro­ver­sial. Peo­ple sus­pect devel­op­ers of try­ing to buy their way out of con­ser­va­tion require­ments by com­pen­sat­ing for bio­di­ver­sity losses some­where else.  But the frame­work for off­set­ting pro­vides sev­eral advan­tages that cur­rent wildlife legal­i­sa­tion doesn’t offer, and we des­per­ately need these if we’re to reach our UK tar­get of halt­ing bio­di­ver­sity loss by 2020.

Advan­tage 1: set­ting the bar higher

The Bio­di­ver­sity Off­set Frame­work sets the bar at ‘no net loss’ of bio­di­ver­sity — that’s the min­i­mum that a devel­oper must achieve when using it.  Devel­op­ers start by using the Mit­i­ga­tion Hier­ar­chy to first avoid, then min­i­mize and then redress bio­di­ver­sity losses on site.  They may not even need off­set­ting. But if they do, off­set­ting will account for bio­di­ver­sity losses that are not picked up by exist­ing wildlife leg­is­la­tion.  This is a vast improve­ment on business-as-usual.

Advan­tage 2: get­ting nature’s number

In 2012, the UK’s Depart­ment for Envi­ron­ment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued a met­ric that lets indus­try cal­cu­late gains and losses of bio­di­ver­sity in ‘bio­di­ver­sity units’.  This first government-issued num­ber for bio­di­ver­sity meant that, finally, indus­try could set tar­gets of ‘no net loss’ or even ‘net gain’.  By doing so we’re mov­ing away from our ‘silo-species’ legal pro­tec­tion of wildlife to devel­op­ment with no over­all loss of nature.

Advan­tage 3: a prin­ci­pled and part­ner­ship approach

From our inclu­sive approach we’ve seen ‘no net loss’ devel­op­ment linked with and con­tribut­ing towards fan­tas­tic work by local nature groups. We’ve also seen gen­uine part­ner­ships between devel­op­ers and local organ­i­sa­tions and greater atten­tion to local wildlife and habi­tat losses.

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