Posts Tagged ‘Habitat banking’

Biodiversity offsets: the most promising nature-based opportunity for UK businesses?!

Monday, July 9th, 2012

DEFRA (the UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs) recently published a report on opportunities for UK business that value and/or protect nature’s services. What does it say?

Well, the authors identified 12 promising opportunities for UK business to help protect and value nature. First among them is the development of biodiversity offsets and habitat banking. The report suggest they move from their current voluntary status to a mandatory regime.

Rank 1=: BIODIVERSITY OFFSETS, INCLUDING THROUGH CONSERVATION BANKING – an opportunity to stimulate creation of new companies and new business models for existing companies to provide biodiversity offsets in the UK, by moving from the current voluntary approach to a (soft regulation) mandatory regime.

The report mentions “soft regulation”, and describes (section 2.1, 1 of the final report) this as:

regulation or unambiguous policy interpretation by government that clarifies that biodiversity offsets are necessary in defined circumstances, and that establishes a framework for implementation to a particular standard, including through conservation banks.

The report also mentions the need to :

support for a brokering system which can provide national, regional and local choice against desired spatial delivery, and can provide transparency and ease of purchase of credits and management of contracts with those providing offset sites, all of which would reduce risk

To learn more about the business side of the report’s conclusions, dive in and read Attachment 1.

Grasslands: are they all equivalent?

Although the report’s overall outlook is positive, it doesn’t mean creating a market for biodiversity offsets will be straightforward. There are still many technical and institutional difficulties to overcome

  • how will the avoidance and reduction steps of the mitigation hierarchy be enforced?
  • how are “credits” constructed?
  • how will their prices be set?
  • how are liabilities defined?
  • who is in charge of controls and sanctions?
  • (…)
  • These questions are not new, but they deserve some detailed thinking, and transparent debates.

    Habitat banking on trial in France

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

    Yesterday, the French environment ministry officially expanded the on-going “experiment” with habitat banking which started three years ago in the Crau area, between Arles and Marseilles in Provence (southern France). There, a subsidiary of the French Sovereign Fund (a for profit public organization) called CDC Biodiversité transformed an industrial orchard into habitat for steppe-land birds such as the Little Bustard or the Lesser Kestrel.

    The Ministry called a tender for three more such experiments, in order to further test the potential of habitat banks to cater for the offset needs of future infrastructure development plans (e.g. high speed train lines and the like). This requirement has been in place in France since 1976 but it has been rarely enforced (and if so, ill-applied). Only recently, under pressure from the EU for the transposition of the 1992 habitats directive, have developers and public authorities started to take it seriously.

    Three areas and issues are favoured by the Ministry for setting up such habitat banks:

  • Alsace (Strasbourg), with a specific focus on the European Hamster,
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Lille), with a focus on connecting calcareous grasslands
  • Poitou-Charentes (Poitiers), with a focus on birds that use extensive cereal crop-land, and in particular the little bustard (again!)
  • The call to tender is on-line on the Ministry’s website.

    To be continued…

    The ecosystem valuation debate

    Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

    The Lancaster Environment Centre recently organized an on-line debate on ecosystem valuation. You can check out a summary of the debate on this page. Participants plan to produce a policy guidance document for future UK policy concerning market based instruments for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

    The same debate on ecosystem valuation will take place tomorrow in Paris (France), under the auspices of the IDDRI, a think-tank. In preparation to the symposium, Emma Broughton and Romain Pirard wrote a short piece on market-based instruments for biodiversity (pdf).

    Their article proposes a typology of instruments which distinguishes:

  • Regulations changing relative prices
  • Coasean type agreements
  • Reverse auctions
  • Tradable permits
  • Specific markets for environmental products
  • Premium capture on existing markets
  • The authors discuss the pros and cons of each one of these instruments.

    Learn more in the paper and participate in the on-going debate!