Paterson favours biodiversity offsetting
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Environment secretary Owen Paterson says the introduction of biodiversity offsetting could provide a big stimulus to enhance local environments in England
He told the parliamentary environmental audit committee inquiry into offsetting that, with the right metric, such a mechanism could speed up developments and providing long-term funding for improving nearby areas.
“If the metric is right, everyone involved in a project will see there is value in the environment that might be affected,” he explained. “Instead of money being wasted on delays and legal fees, it could be given for the long-term benefit of the environment.”
Paterson also said that offset sites should be reasonably close to affected habitat, arguing that the local community would want an overall improvement in their environment.
Pressed by committee members on whether biodiversity offsetting should be mandatory or voluntary, the environment secretary said the mandatory approach adopted in the Australian state of Victoria had impressed him.
“There are clear advantages if the system was mandatory,” he told MPs. “I think you would get more people coming forward with potential [offsetting] sites.”
He did, however, note that the current offsetting pilots, which are being conducted in six areas and will end in April 2014, have shown that a voluntary approach can also work.
Paterson said he would decide whether to pursue a mandatory approach when Defra had evaluated feedback from a consultation on its potential biodiversity offsetting system that recently ended (see p.8), as well as an assessment of the pilots.
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