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: http://iale.uk/biodiversity-offsetting-better-nature, see also the related LinkedIn discussion
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.