Last Chance to Chime in on the Limits of Biodiversity Offsets!

Biodiversity Aug 8, 2008

To offset or to mitigate? That is the question being put to market practitioners in the first consultation phase of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), a global project designed to test and develop protocols for biodiversity offsets around the world. You have until the end of this week to offer your views, and the Ecosystem Marketplace tells you how.

8 August 2008 | A mining project in a developing country is set to generate hundreds – perhaps thousands – of well-paid jobs, and you’re in charge. But there’s a catch: scores of plant and animal species on that site exist nowhere else.

So, do you structure the project in such a way that the species are only mildly disrupted, or do you plunge ahead and then execute a so-called biodiversity offset: re-creating the habitat nearby?

“Plunging ahead is never an option,” says Josh Bishop, Chief Economic Advisor to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “You have to clearly weigh all the alternatives, and then proceed carefully – and you can never, ever offset an extinction.”

Kerry ten Kate agrees – but says most situations in the real world aren’t quite so clear-cut.

She’s the Forest Trends fellow spearheading the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), a global partnership of 40 organizations launched in 2004 by
Forest Trends
(publisher of the Ecosystem Marketplace) to determine when biodiversity offsets are appropriate and when they are not, and to come up with detailed protocols ensuring they are done right when implemented.

A cornerstone of the project is the development of the BBOP Biodiversity Offset Design Handbook, which is still being designed and will ultimately offer a step-by-step guide for developing biodiversity offset projects – beginning with those not so clear-cut situations.

Those situations are the focus of the first question put to practitioners in Thresholds for Biodiversity Offsets, a consultation paper posted June 25, 2008, and available to anyone who registers for the consultation process.

The paper deals with three key questions:

When is a biodiversity offset not appropriate because the project’s impacts simply cannot be offset because it cannot compensate for residual impacts at the project site in an acceptable manner??

When it is appropriate to move to the next step of the mitigation hierarchy, from avoiding impact to minimizing it; from minimizing impact to rehabilitation; and from on-site rehabilitation to the final step of offsetting?

What is the threshold between ‘in kind’ and ‘out of kind’ offsets and when is ‘trading up’ appropriate?