Policy update: Spotlight on biodiversity offsetting

11th November 2013

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Natural resources ,
  • Local government ,
  • Construction



IEMA's Nick Blyth discusses a recent IEMA workshop debating Defra's proposals for a biodiversity offsetting scheme in England

Environment professionals want the government to adopt a transparent and robust approach to biodiversity offsetting which is firmly within the context of the mitigation hierarchy and contains suitable safeguards.

These are some of the key outcomes from two workshops held in London and Sheffield for IEMA members to review the green paper on biodiversity offsetting in England, which Defra put out to consultation on 5 September.

The workshops were followed by a joint webinar with Defra and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, which examined the proposals from the environment department in more detail, as well emerging concerns among practitioners.

A poll of the participants indicated that most believed biodiversity offsetting should be a mandatory requirement. It also revealed that few environment professionals believe that Defra’s current proposals for an offsetting scheme provided sufficient safeguards.

It is increasingly acknowledged among practitioners and project developers that biodiversity offsetting could make a contribution to addressing the long-standing decline and fragmentation of ecological networks.

The environment department said its proposals aimed to maintain ecosystems, air, water and soils, as well as ensure that “expensive and inefficient” planning processes did not unnecessarily delay projects required for economic growth.

Biodiversity offsetting is not straightforward, however, and presents a challenge in terms of developing a credible scheme that gives confidence to all parties. Demonstrating the value or “equivalence” of traded units, for example, is far more challenging than carbon offsetting, a practice that also suffered a significant lack of confidence in its formative period.

IEMA members believe that a transparent and robust approach will be required in offsetting biodiversity impacts and that lessons should be learned from professionals who were directly engaged in the early period of commissioning carbon offsets for carbon neutrality. Many practitioners are also keen for the government to explore the scope of using biodiversity offsetting and offset metrics in companies’ wider sustainability initiatives

The participating practitioners work across a range of development and impact assessment roles, including for developers, construction firms, consultants and advisers, as well as regulatory, planning and consent-related jobs.

Their concerns build on earlier IEMA advice on biodiversity offsetting, and have contributed to the Institute’s formal response to Defra’s consultation – which can be downloaded from the policy hub at iema.net.

The workshops and webinar also helped to inform IEMA’s submission to the inquiry into biodiversity offsetting by the House of Commons environmental audit committee.

Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert