Note: This originally appeared as a blog entry on the Eko-Eco Blog.
1 July 2010 | Europe is looking to be the biggest new thing in biodiversity offsetting. First, a little scene-setting… most of the TEEB report researchers/writers are based out of Europe, so there’s been general hubbub about the value of ecosystems and biodiversity building during this year. Add to that two recent feasibility studies on biodiversity offsetting – one conducted for the European Commission and one conducted for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The momentum builds as UK politics steer towards offsetting and an entrepreneur opens the UK’s first bank selling ‘conservation credits.’
With all this buzz building, Peter Carter of the European Investment Bank drops this bombshell quote at a recent European ‘Green Week’ Conference: biodiversity offsetting could be “as big as the carbon market,” and he pointed to the US wetland mitigation market as an example.
Reality check: the total carbon market worldwide is upwards of $100 billion annually vs. total US wetland mitigation market is around $1-2 billion annually. Others in the know pop the optimism with a dose of reality:
“With the carbon market we know what we are trading and how to tackle them. We can set a cap and use the price to drive them down. We have a baseline for biodiversity in Europe now, but it is not one figure – it is four pages of different elements of biodiversity,” says Karl Falkenberg, European Commission director general for environment. (Ecologist.com)
Some of the more realistic optimism for biodiversity offsets in Europe recognizes that development will continue to occur, and offsets could be a useful policy tool provided that there is additionality. But Pavan Sukdev, the PI on the TEEB study, counters “societies needed to cease putting “private wealth above public wealth” to tackle the problem effectively.”(NYT)
In related news, the EU Habitats and Birds Directive had a task force working on biodiversity offsets that has recently released a position paper. The position of the BHDTF (Birds and Habitats Directive Task Force) is one of cautious approval for biodiversity offsets for habitats and species of European Importance outside Natura 2000 sites. The task force emphasizes that the “current stringent offset system prescribed in… the Habitats Directive must be maintained and its implementation strengthened.” As well, the position paper lays out principles that an offset system should include, referencing Ecosystem Marketplace’s sister initiative, the Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme (BBOP).