3 minute read

I wanted to share a few recent papers on topics related to biodiversity offsetting. The first came out just recently and explores the need for registers to allow transparent reporting and evaluation of offsets and offset policies. The second argues for the need to retain biodiversity gains from offsets over the long-term, and the third is an exploration of how the concept of ‘no net loss’ and offsetting evolved through time and discourses that have been used to promote it. There is a more detailed description of each papers below.

Kujala H., Maron M., Kennedy C.M., Bull J.W., Evans M.C., Wintle B.A., Iftekhar M.S., Selwood K.E., Beissner K., Osborn D., Gordon A. (2022) Credible biodiversity offsetting needs public national registers to confirm No Net Loss. One Earth. 5: 650-662. doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2022.05.011

Biodiversity offsets should compensate for biodiversity losses from development by producing equitable biodiversity gains, through actions such as restoration and/or protection. While the overarching goal of offsetting is to deliver no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity, assessing whether offsetting does indeed deliver NNL is challenging. This is because there is a general lack of clear and reliable information about offset schemes: where offsets are implemented, the actions they comprise and which developments they are be compensating for. Here we argue public offset registers are vital to enable accessible and credible reporting of whether NNL is achieved, and we present requirements for offset registers that allow different levels of offset evaluation and policy improvement. We also show how existing public offset registers around the world fail to meet basic criteria required for credible reporting of NNL and discuss the potential benefits, costs, and risks of an open biodiversity offset register. Biodiversity offsetting continues to grow as policy approach to manage development globally, so it is vital we are able to evaluate if, and when, this approach works.

Damiens F., Backstrom A., Gordon A. (2021) Governing for ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity over the long-term: challenges and pathways forward. One Earth. 4: P60-74, doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2020.12.012

In this paper we explore the vexing issue of retaining biodiversity gains from offsets in perpetuity. As the losses that generate offsets are effectively permanent (most of the time), the biodiversity gains from offsets need to be permanently retained of these policies are to have any hope of working in the long term. Here we discuss how the current political and economic climate makes long-term planning difficult, the necessity for long-term management of offset gains to achieve No Net Loss of biodiversity at a program scale, and ways forward for improving this situation. We also undertake an enlightening comparison of time frames to recruit and retain biodiversity gains across different ecosystems with the historical lifespans of Western institutions, and the expected lifespans of development activities and offset policies.

Damiens F., Porter L., Gordon A. (2020) The politics of biodiversity offsetting across time and institutional scales. Nature Sustainability. 4: 170–179 doi: 10.1038/s41893-020-00636-9

Here examine how biodiversity offsetting and the no net loss concept have been used across time and institutional scales. The paper explores how different environmental discourses have influenced and promoted the concepts of “offset” and “no net loss”. We find that offsetting has historically been promoted by reformist approaches, which encourage economic growth without consideration of biocultural limits. More recently, those promoting more transformative approaches have reinterpreted offsetting as an instrument to transition towards sustainable economies respectful of planetary boundaries. We also explore the important role of neoliberalism in explaining the progressive emergence of offsetting. We end the paper by arguing all stakeholders involved in offsetting become more aware of how their contributions can become enrolled in the service of promoting specific discourses, as these discourses play an important role how we approach and frame the problem of protecting nature in the face of development.