Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

Biodiversity offsets and more in the UK’s white paper on the value of nature

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The UK government’s white paper on the “value of nature” has been published (pdf here).

Biodiversity offsets are mentioned as a good idea to be tested on a voluntary basis by local governments and developers. For the time being, there is thus no expansion of the mitigation hierarchy (of avoiding, reducing and offsetting impacts) beyond that required under the EU “birds” and “habitats” directives.

We will establish a new, voluntary approach to biodiversity offsets and test our approach in pilot areas

As well as testing offsets, the white paper also mentions the designation of nature improvement areas to be restored. This must be set against the goals mentioned in the recent European biodiversity strategy (also discussed here). The government also plans to set up an (ecological network.

The UK national ecosystem assessment is out!

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment was finalized and is being published on-line.

Started mid 2009, the assessment led by Robert Watson and Steve Albon, it is the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity.

The key findings of the assessment were made available on June 2nd (pdf here) while specific technical chapters will be made available through June.

Until then the 87 pages of the synthesis report should keep you busy! Below are some of the main points raised by the assessment:

The authors mention the need to increase food production while at the same time decreasing its negative effects on ecosystem services. In fact, the idea is to harness ecosystem services to actually increase production. This “sustainable intensification” is what the French call “ecological intensification”.

Reversing declines in ecosystem services will require the adoption of more resilient ways of managing ecosystems, and a better balance between production and other ecosystem services – one of the major challenges is to increase food production, but with a smaller environmental footprint through sustainable intensification.

Not surprisingly, the assessment also raises the issue of ecosystem services being undervalued in decision making and the suggested solution is to take into account the monetary and non monetary values of ecosystems in every-day decision making.

Contemporary economic and participatory techniques allow us to take into account the monetary and non-monetary values of a wide range of ecosystem services.

The assessment use six contrasting scenarios to explore alternative futures for ecosystem services in the UK.

The six scenarios used in the UK national ecosystem assessment

Choose yours!

It is also worth noticing that the assessment’s conceptual framework seems to focus on the “goods” that depend (at least in part) on ecosystem services as the linkage between ecosystems and human well-being. A more in-depth look into the figure below shows that in fact, the authors have grouped under the label “goods” all use and non-use, material and non-material benefits from ecosystems that have value for people.

The conceptual framework of the UK national ecosystem assessment

Towards no net loss, and beyond (in the UK)

Friday, December 31st, 2010

I had mentioned in a previous post how the UK was discussing policies for biodiversity offsets and habitat banking.

Conclusions from the Natural Capital Initiative‘s third workshop, which took place in early December 2010, are not yet on-line but they are discussed by Daniel Kandy of the ecosystem market place on their website.

He argues that the workshop gave little hope for a national policy framework or strong government regulations on offsetting. A framework for voluntary offsets by developers is a more likely outcome of the current discussions, in particular under the new coalition government:

Given the coalition government’s commitment to reducing regulation and meting out more power to local governments, a biodiversity offset program will more than likely be voluntary in nature and be regulated at the local level. After years of a Labour government opting for top-down regulatory approaches, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has decided to move towards a less centralized form of government oversight.

The government will state its position in the spring of 2011, in a white paper called the “Natural Environment Policy Paper”. Meanwhile, discussions continue. Stay tuned for the publication of the workshop’s conclusions by the Natural Capital Initiative themselves…

The biodiversity planning toolkit

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The British Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) has put on-line a very interesting tool for anyone interested in environmental issues related to planning in the UK. The biodiversity planning toolkit provides user-friendly information on several important points including:

  • Fundamental Considerations
  • Law / Policy / Practice, including primary legislation and statutory regulaions
  • Types of Development
  • Designations, key species, habitats and components of geodiversity
  • Forward Planning
  • The most interesting offer of the toolkit is the interactive landscape which lets the user navigate the different issues listed above in an attractive setting which is pretty much self-explanatory. The interactive landscape is very useful as a first introduction to the British planning regime and environmental regulations as well as all the key components of biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes that are under consideration.

    Well done!