Around the world, ecosystems and the communities that depend on them are harmed by large infrastructure projects, extractive industries and new financial markets. To facilitate these activities, public and private entities are promoting new schemes to allow their environmental impacts to be ‘offset’. This could lead to an increase in damage, but even more concerning is that it commodifies nature. This is why the undersigned organisations are warning the world of the negative impacts of this false solution and saying “No to Biodiversity Offsetting.”
Biodiversity offsetting is the promise to replace nature destroyed and lost in one place with nature somewhere else. As with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), biodiversity offsetting relies on ‘experts’ to create dubious calculations that claim to make one piece of the earth equal to another. It pretends you can trade places.
Who really benefits?
The introduction of biodiversity offsetting allows, or even encourages, environmental destruction with the promise that the habitat can be recreated elsewhere. This is beneficial to the companies doing the damage, since they can present themselves as a company that invests in environmental protection, thereby green-washing its products and services.
It also creates new business opportunities for intermediaries: conservation consultants to calculate what is lost, bankers to turn them into credits, traders to barter and speculate on them in new specialised markets and investors who want to profit from so called ‘natural capital’. “Natural capital” is an artificial concept based on questionable economic assumptions rather than ecological values. It only serves to permit the commodification of nature.
All of this is happening with the strong involvement of state governments who are creating public policies to ensure that property rights over elements of nature such as carbon or biodiversity can be transferred to corporations and banks.
Biodiversity offsetting won’t prevent biodiversity loss
Nature is unique and complex. It is impossible to fully measure biodiversity, so suggestions that equivalent natural areas can be found is a fallacy. Some ecosystems take hundreds, even thousands of years to reach their current state – yet biodiversity offsetting pretends that a replacement can be found. Extensive research shows this is impossible.
Biodiversity offsetting will harm communities
Biodiversity offsetting means environmental protection becomes a mere by-product of a commercial project, marginalising communities and threatening their right to life. Nature has an important social, spiritual and sustenance role for local communities, who define their territories through a balanced and historical relationship with land and nature. These values cannot be measured, priced nor offset any more than communities can simply move and live elsewhere.
Biodiversity offsetting attempts to separate people from the environment in which they live, where their culture is rooted, where their economic activities have been traditionally taking place.
Biodiversity offsetting could increase biodiversity loss
Past cases of biodiversity offsetting shows how it opens up natural resources to further exploitation, and undermines communities’ rights to be able to manage and protect the natural commons. Examples include:
· The new Forest Code in Brazil which allows land-owners to destroy forests if they buy ‘certificates of environmental reserves’ which are issued by the state and traded on BVRio, the ‘green stock market’ recently established by the government of Brazil.
· The planned EU legislation on biodiversity offsetting (the so called “No Net Loss Initiative”) which could undermine existing environmental directives.
· Public finance institutions such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank private sector arm) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are making biodiversity offsetting part of their standards and practices, permitting increased levels of offsetting to ‘compensate’ for the permanent environmental damage caused by the projects that they finance.Destructive large infrastructure and extraction projects cannot be offset. Once an ecosystem is destroyed, it cannot be recreated elsewhere. In many places where biodiversity offsetting has been allowed, it has weakened existing laws to prevent destruction. If trading occurs (as it does with carbon offsetting), it paves the way for speculation by financial actors and private companies, threatening nature and the rights of communities dependent on it.