Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

BBOP : British Biodiversity Offsetting Prospects?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

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).

    Ecological business needs: mitigation guidelines and risk profiling

    Sunday, October 17th, 2010

    In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Paul Armsworth and his co-authors present the conclusions of a (mainly) workshop based study on the ecological research needs of business, in the UK. Workshop participants were from the mining and quarrying, insurance and manufacturing, engineering and technology sectors.

    They identified questions related to the following:

  • Reducing costs from business impacts on the environment
  • Exploiting new opportunities
  • Informing long term planning
  • Developing immediate commercial applications
  • Streamlining environmental policies that affect businesses
  • Among the more specific suggestions made by workshop participants, mining ans quarrying underlined the importance of informing the location of their operations in order to minimize on- and off-site impacts and well as having guidelines for offsetting their residual impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. Concerning the latter, there was strong interest in the ecosystem service concept as a useful tool for strengthening the links between business interests and obligations and the ecological research community.

    Risk profiling techniques could contribute to environmental offset design and sizing

    Another interesting suggestions include the development of risk profiles for “environmental investments”, including carbon and biodiversity offsets. Standardized methods for risk profiling of offset actions (that aim to create, restore or manage biodiversity and ecosystem services) could be very useful for assessing their likely contribution to no-net-loss of biodiversity. As such, risk profiling would also assist in the complicated task of sizing offsets on the basis of the uncertainty or reliability of the ecological engineering techniques involved.

    Workshop participants from the manufacturing, engineering and technology sectors also mentioned the need to develop low-cost rapid assessment methods for businesses to seize opportunities provided by ecosystem services and to manage environmental risks and opportunities (see wikipedia for an introduction to risk management).

    Reference: Armsworth, P., Armsworth, A., Compton, N., Cottle, P., Davies, I., Emmett, B., Fandrich, V., Foote, M., Gaston, K., Gardiner, P., Hess, T., Hopkins, J., Horsley, N., Leaver, N., Maynard, T., & Shannon, D. (2010). The ecological research needs of business Journal of Applied Ecology, 47 (2), 235-243 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01792.x