With the adoption of its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy the EU has made a commitment to halt “the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible”. To reach this goal the European Commission works towards an initiative to ensure there is no net loss of ecosystems and their services (e.g. through compensation or offsetting schemes) by 2015. This action is accompanied by a public consultation on the planned No Net Loss Initiative (see my previous post for more details). The discussion on the introduction of biodiversity offsets as part of this initiative is very lively and controversial: some expect a European legal framework on biodiversity offsets would set minimum standards to protect and restore the normal landscape outside protected areas, others fear that this would foster even more development and environmental degradation.
This post is the third in a short-run series on the Biodiversity Offset Blog encouraging you to have your say on the consultation on the EU No Net Loss Initiative until Friday, October17 (consultation closes) and to help you to make an informed decision.
Arguments and conditions for biodiversity offsets as part of the EU No Net Loss Initiative from the International Federation of Landscape Architects IFLA Europe
The following arguments where extracted from the response of the International Federation of Landscape Architects IFLA Europe to the consultation on the EU No Net Loss Initiative.
- Ideally, in spatial terms the future EU NNL initiative would be a full coverage standard to address any impacts on nature and landscape.
- The NNL initiative could give extraordinary attention to the concept of Green Infrastructure development, as per the “roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe”.
- IFLA Europe believes that the Concept of Green Infrastructure Development (and the EU GI communication) needs extraordinary attention when shaping the EU NNL initiative. A joint implementation of a European GI strategy and an EU NNL initiative bear a high potential of fruitful synergy effects.
- National approaches have clearly shown that compensation is able to contribute significantly to biodiversity protection and landscape development. Nevertheless, it is vital that any EU NNL initiative anchors compensation / off-setting into a strict and systematic mitigation hierarchy.
- The mitigation hierarchy is built not very well in several core pieces of EU legislation (e.g. EIA directive). A comprehensive framework providing clear effective and binding rules for the mitigation hierarchy is needed.
Arguments and requirements for biodiversity offsets as part of the EU No Net Loss Initiative in the light of the German impact mitigation regulation, building on a recent paper by Albrecht et al
The following arguments where extracted from a recently published paper by Juliane Albrecht, Jochen Schumacher and Wolfgang Wende (2014): The German Impact Mitigation Regulation — A Model for the EU’s No-net-loss Strategy and Biodiversity Offsets? (Environmental Policy and Law, 44/3).
- Countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a long experience with the legal establishment of impact mitigation regulation and biodiversity offsets. Similar systems exist or are under development e.g. in Italy, Spain, France, Sweden and Great Britain. Thus the EU No Net Loss Initiative could set a common framework.
- The core idea of a impact mitigation regulation and biodiversity offsets is that the party causing the degradation of nature and landscape bears the responsibility for avoidance or mitigation of that degradation and for compensation of its effects, i.e. it is a concretization of general environmental principles of sustainability and responsibility.
- Impact mitigation regulation and biodiversity offsets are designed to secure and preserve the functionality of the balance of nature and the quality of the landscape, even outside protected areas – so-called “full-coverage minimum protection”.
- Under European environmental law, there is no full coverage protection like that provided by the German impact mitigation regulation. The existing instruments (Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Impact Assessment under the Habitats Directive, Environmental Liability Directive) are subject to limitations in a number of respects, e.g. Impact Assessment under the Habitats Directive is restricted to protected areas.
- If the negative effects cannot be avoided or compensated/offset within a reasonable period, the responsible authority must not permit the impact
- The system of impact mitigation regulation and biodiversity offsets does not allow anyone to “buy himself free” from the obligation to maintain conservation standards under the law. The mitigation hierarchy must be maintained in this respect.
- Where avoidance is not possible, a duty of justification must be imposed.
- Based on the German example of an impact mitigation regulation rooted in the law, a completely new instrument at EU level would appear to promise the greatest success. A mere adaptation or extension of existing directives will be insufficient to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.
- The introduction of a new instrument in accordance with the principle of full coverage would particularly provide for the protection and development of biodiversity and ecosystem services that are located outside protected areas and thus beyond the scope of the protection under the Habitats and Birds Directive.
- Clearly, the protective force of existing regulations should under no circumstances be diluted.
- Comprehensive implementation can only be provided if the regulation governing this new instrument and strategy is mandatory, for compensation involves costs which the parties causing an impact generally want to avoid.
- In practice, voluntary biodiversity offsets are only implemented when the party causing an impact has an interest in gaining acceptance or recognition for the project, i.e. “voluntary” offsets tend not to be very effective.
- An investigation of the German impact mitigation regulation also leads to the conclusion that it is necessary to create a regulation that clearly upholds the “mitigation hierarchy” and provides strict priority for practical on-site compensation measures over monetary offset payment.
- A European regulation or directive could also provide rules for the spatial and/or biogeographical linkage of impacts in compensation measures to the impact they compensate for; otherwise we will see the Europe wide segregation into region with increased impacts and biodiversity effects on the one hand and regions with a preferred “concentration” of offsets on the other.
More from the short-run series on the consultation on the EU No Net Loss Initiative
The short-run series on the Biodiversity Offsets Blog on the consultation on the EU No Net Loss Initiative includes the following posts:
1. Consultation on the EU No Net Loss Initiative: Biodiversity offsetting can, under certain circumstances, improve nature and biodiversity conservation — a comment by Heidi Wittmer
3. Why would you say YES to the EU No Net Loss initiative? (this post)