Biodiversity offsetting is the idea that nature can be destroyed in one place and this loss balanced out with nature somewhere else.
The concept allows and even encourages environmental destruction, with the promise that the damaged habitat can be recreated
elsewhere. Companies and governments doing the damage can thus claim that they are investing in environmental
Governments across the world are enthusiastically adopting the idea of biodiversity offsetting and creating public policies to ensure that property
rights over nature can be
transferred to corporations and banks. Often they claim that habitats will only be destroyed in extremis and that offsetting allows such destruction to be balanced. But, as the plan to build houses on Cammo fields in Edinburgh shows, decision makers can't be trusted to leave important sites undeveloped or even to recognise the importance of sites and biodiversity offsetting can lead to increased destruction.
Nature is unique and complex. Biodiversity is impossible to measure, and specific areas of habitat are impossible to replace. It is ridiculous to suggest that an area of ancient woodland can be destroyed to build a high speed rail link and then replaced by planting a few sycamores somewhere else. Not only is the specific ecological value for the wildlife living in that ancient woodland lost forever, but the people living nearby lose a valuable part of their local culture.
Some conservation organisations are apparently being tempted by the idea that biodiversity offsetting could fund some of their nature reserves. However, it would be appalling to think that nature reserves were to become dependent on funds from environmental destruction.
(It is worth saying that some environmental damage can be made good - one of my favourite birdwatching sites, Musselburgh lagoons was created on the site of an old dunping ground for fly ash from the
nearby power station. Many quarries have been made into wildlife
friendly areas once the quarrying comes to an end. But the concept of biodiversity offsetting as a general approach to environmental protection is flawed and ultimately dangerous).
If you are a representative of a group or organisation that disagrees with the concept of biodiversity offsetting, please sign the No Biodiversity Offsets Declaration.