Achieving a ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity and ecosystem services will be a substantial and complex challenge, according to a report produced for the European Commission. However, the report, ‘Policy options for no net loss’, indicates that better implementation of existing policies (such as the Habitats Directive, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessment) would represent a major development in achieving this goal. Read more…
The EU Biodiversity Strategy seeks to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets in the strategy and 20 actions to help Europe reach this goal. Under target two – ‘better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure’ – the Commission has an action to propose an initiative by 2015 to ensure that there is no net loss of ecosystems and their services. The initiative could include compensation or offsetting schemes.
To support the preparation of the initiative, the Institute for European Environmental Policy led a contract for the Directorate-General for the Environment. The contract emphasises the importance of respecting the ‘mitigation hierarchy’. Which means that first you try and avoid damage, then you try to minimise damage and where possible to restore any damage caused. If, despite all best efforts, there is still residual damage, then this should be compensated/offset. The contract also identified policy gaps and implementation deficiencies. It proposed numerous policy options and packages that could contribute to, and eventually achieve, no net loss.
The recommended policy options include developing an EU framework for biodiversity offsetting to ensure that offsetting is carried out in a consistent manner across the Union.
Introducing offsets does have risks, however, and would prove counter-productive if it weakens existing protection measures. The report concludes that offsets must be carefully designed and tightly regulated to be effective.
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