Tuesday 17 December 2013

No Biodiversity Offsetting

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 protection.

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.


RG said...

Such a quandary. I do believe some cases for trading existing habitat for reclamation/restoration elsewhere can be made.

But I always worry when the measuring and proclaiming of success (or not) is left to the proponents of the trade. This is often (too often) the case where I live.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Rabbits Guy, yes the Musselburgh Loaggons prove your first point and i totally agree with your second point.

Hannah Mowat said...

Hi Juliet,

I am Hannah from FERN, one of the instigators of the statement - would be really great to speak about this, and also to hear about the Cammo fields case. I also agree that restoration can also lead to some wonderful wildlife havens, but surely we have such little nature left, restoration should not happen at the expense of building more on wildlife areas? Do get in touch: hannah@fern.org