BBOP : British Biodiversity Offsetting Prospects?

Biodiversty offsets are being debated in the United Kingdom as a useful tool for stopping biodiversity loss (the so called no-net-loss target). Rob Calvert, a policy intern at the British Ecological Society (BES), recently contributed to the debate through an article in the Bulletin of the BES, which also brought professional ecologists on board. The bulletin is only available to subscribers so here is a short summary and review.

Mr. Calvert explains how the goal of offsets is to achieve no-net-loss through “measurable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts arising from development plans or projects after appropriate prevention and mitigation measures have been taken”. This is the definition by BBOP (Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program*). After giving foreign examples of offset policies, he details the advantages of pooling offsets from different impacts in order to obtain additional biodiversity gains through larger areas or interconnections.

He then goes on to list the concerns raised by the prospect of biodiversity offsets

  • Restoration is not always possible
  • Determining “biodiversity value” for assessing “like for like” will always involve subjective elements as biological and ecological knowledge is incomplete
  • Metapopulation dynamics and genetic diversity are unlikely to be considered, yet they are essential to long-term persistence
  • Offsets located far from impacts has ethical implications as they deprive local populations of green space
  • Concerning the policy itself, Mr. Calvert refers to a scoping study by DEFRA that mentions the following key difficulties:

  • High transaction costs must be expected (probably for agreeing on ecological equivalence, and finding land for offsets)
  • Stakeholders must be provided with clear rules and objectives that are legally, institutionaly and financially secure
  • There are of course exciting opportunities in developing an offset policy in the UK. These include

  • Restoring or enhancing areas of man-made biodiversity that are currently degraded as a very cost-effective way to favour biodiversity
  • Conserving biodiversity outside protected or designated sites
  • Incorporating conservation objectives into spatial planning processes
  • Improving the ecological connections between protected hot-spots of biodiversity by locating offsets strategically in the degraded suburban and agricultural matrix
  • According to Mr. Calvert, British legislation and policy tools are already adapted to the setting up of offset schemes, with

  • Relatively good data and maps on the distribution of biodiversity
  • Spatial planning laws and procedures
  • Offsets are already required for impacts on Natura 2000 sites
  • Among the many fora in which offsets are being discussed, Mr. Calvert mentions those of the Natural Capital Initiative towards no net loss.

    *: BBOP recently put on-line a report on policy options for setting up offset schemes (pdf here).

    3 Responses to “BBOP : British Biodiversity Offsetting Prospects?”

    1. F@bien says:

      The British Ecological Society has included biodiversity offsets in its recommendations to DEFRA. See their report here : http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/documents/policy_documents/consultation_responses/FINAL_RESPONSE_BES_DEFRA_WHITE_PAPER_291010.pdf

    2. […] had mentionned in a previous post how the UK was discussing policies for biodiversity offsets and habitat […]

    3. F@bien says:

      BBOP made comments on DEFRA’s proposal for biodiversity offsets in the UK. You can find iti here : http://bbop.forest-trends.org/activities/policy/Defra-comments_Jan-2011.pdf

    Leave a Reply