Biodiversity offsetting policies raise more questions than answers

ClientEarth has raised concerns that ministers are proceeding with policies for wildlife protection that their own evidence has failed to prove are either effective or popular.

The UK Government has released a public consultation on new measures which would allow developers greater flexibility in meeting their legal obligation to avoid disturbing protected species.

Three of the four policies involve compensating for damage to species or habitats by replacing them elsewhere. The policies, although not named as such, follow some principles of biodiversity offsetting.

Recently released findings from six biodiversity offsetting pilot projects in England suggest that there are hugely significant questions that need to be answered before ministers should begin  to think about using these schemes for wildlife protection.

By using terms such as ‘wildlife licensing’ and ‘compensatory habitats’ the similarities to ‘biodiversity offsetting’  mean that the findings from the pilot projects must be applied to these new policies.

ClientEarth’s Economics and Law Researcher, Tom West said:

“The Government’s latest consultation contains offsetting in disguise. The Government needs to answer four crucial questions raised by the pilot projects before it proceeds. The main issues we have seen are a need for improvement on how the value of a habitat is calculated, uncertainty over the costs involved, and an unclear legal framework protecting the newly created areas over time. Another crucial question is whether nature can always be replaced like for like.”

ClientEarth will be answering the public consultation to highlight these concerns and remind the government that policies for wildlife protection need to be based on benefits to wildlife, not benefits to business.

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Peter Trimming

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