Conservation Banking Becomes A Reality In Spain

Biodiversity Jan 8, 2014
David Álvarez García

Spain’s new Environmental Assessment Act, passed late last year, has big implications for conservation banking. David Alvarez Garcia of the Spanish organization, Mercados de Medio Ambiente, which focuses on market based biodiversity conservation solutions, briefly explains his take on the new rule.

8 January 2014 | A meeting of the Spanish Congress late last year was short but meaningful. At the end of it, the legislature approved a new Environmental Assessment Act and for the first time, conservation banking was included.

Conservation banking is a tool where developers pay into a bank that conserves and preserves a species that is impacted by unavoidable development activities. Developers of infrastructure projects purchase credits from a land conservation bank to ensure there is a no-net loss of species from their activities and offset the unavoidable impacts of their development. So now in Spain, conservation banking can be used to offset unavoidable impacts to species.

How it will Work

Spain is an environmentally wealthy nation rich in ecological diversity. Because development was a looming threat to this wealth, interest arose in conservation banking as a potential tool to preserve it. The Environment Act not only increases interest in conservation banking, but it presents it as part of the remedy for challenges like environmental monitoring and impact measurements.

Under Spain’s Act, the banking credits are called environmental titles. The Spanish Environment Ministry will oversee the industry approving banks and determining where these ‘titles’ will be used. The credits will then be traded in a free market with a single registry.

While the Act won’t achieve total incorporation of conservation banking into Spain’s environmental policy, it provides guidance on how to develop or become involved in a conservation banking scheme. However the new rule does ensure that the natural areas the banks create or conserve must continue to be preserved. It also initiates development of new environmental rules where conservation banking can play a larger role.

Conservation banking is not a new idea. The space has been growing in the US for the last 30 years and is also used in Australia.

Building a path toward responsible development

This is just the beginning for conservation banking in Spain. The tool should be part of a regulatory framework on compensatory mitigation in order to reverse negative impacts and achieve a no net loss of species. An important step in its progress will be engaging the social aspect-the communities and organizations that care and stand to benefit.

Throughout this year the Spanish legislature should work to build a rule on conservation banking that will eliminate doubt while establishing its deliverables and limits. This, along with its proven abilities in other parts of the world, will demonstrate conservation banking as an effective tool suitable for use in Spain.

David Álvarez Garcí­a is the Executive Director of Ecoacsa Reserva de Biodiversidad and promoter of the initiative in Spain Mercados de Medio Ambiente.
Additional resources