Biodiversity offsets good for business and environment

6th March 2013


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  • Agriculture ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources

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IEMA

Biodiversity offsets, burning locally-sourced biomass and better management of water catchment areas will help to boost green growth and protect natural habitats, say government advisers

The Ecosystem Markets Task Force, a business-led think tank set up after the publication of the natural environment white paper in 2011, concludes in its final report to ministers, that companies remain unaware of their reliance on ecosystems services, and that new approaches and business models are needed.

The report recommends five priority areas for government and business action to help ensure habitats and wildlife are protected, but also offer new business opportunities and markets.

A national biodiversity-offsetting programme could “revolutionise conservation”, claims the report, by ensuring the restoration, creation and management of more than 300,000 hectares of habitat over 20 years. It also calls for the streamlining of the planning approval processes; the introduction of incentivise for developments with fewer environmental impacts; and the creation of a market for habitat restoration services, which the taskforce estimates could be worth £500 million annually.

Meanwhile, the group encourages firms to burn biomass to meet their energy needs, as that would help to drive sustainable woodland management and develop a sector that could, the taskforce forecasts, be worth more than £1 billion extra to the UK economy annually and create 15,300 jobs by 2020.

Other recommendations include the creation of certification schemes to demonstrate the green credentials of products and take advantage of growing consumer demand for sustainable goods; the deployment of anaerobic digestion plants on farms to use waste to generate energy; and better water-cycle catchment management to improve water quality, reduce flood risk and preserve biodiversity.

Peter Young, chair of the Aldersgate Group and a member of the taskforce, said: “The report demonstrates the significant benefits that can be achieved for business and the natural environment through integrated thinking. Safeguarding the quality of our natural environment will benefit our economic performance.”

Environment secretary Owen Paterson welcomed the report’s recommendations. “This independent report outlines ideas at the cutting edge of new markets which value and protect our natural environment.

“It shows that it is possible to boost the economy while at the same time we improve the environment.”

The report, which is available from Defra’s website, includes case studies demonstrating new business approaches to valuing natural capital by organisations such as Jaguar Land Rover, Puma and the Olympic Delivery Authority..

The government will respond officially to the recommendations of the taskforce in the summer.

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