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Cross-Sector Consortium Launches A New Portfolio Of Biodiversity Solutions For Business And Government

Genevieve Bennett

As biodiversity continues to decline in the face of climate change and development, a consortium of private and public actors is harvesting decades of experience to offer new solutions based on past lessons.

19 November 2018 | In the wake of a major new report from WWF and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) showing dramatic declines in biodiversity over the last fifty years, over 100 members of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) are meeting in Paris this month to launch a new portfolio of practical solutions for companies and policy-makers to contribute to biodiversity protection. In particular, the new roadmap for business sets out steps enabling a company to make the transition to delivering a Net Gain for Biodiversity.

A central driver of the biodiversity crisis is economic growth itself, as wildlife habitat is lost through new infrastructure development, industrial expansion, and commercial agriculture. But BBOP says it is possible to reconcile economic development and biodiversity conservation – and that proven strategies are ready for use by governments, financial institutions, and businesses.

“Decision-makers sometimes think they have to choose between environmental protection and economic development,” says BBOP Director Kerry ten Kate of Forest Trends. “But it’s often a false choice – practical solutions to reconcile them do exist.  There are ways to support development, so people have access to food, materials, energy, infrastructure and jobs, while conserving biodiversity.  BBOP is releasing a set of tools that we are confident can help companies, banks, and policy-makers rise to the challenge.”

The meeting in Paris, to be held on 27 November at French bank CDC represents the culmination of 15 years of collaboration between over 100 government agencies, companies, financial institutions, NGOs and individual experts, together representing over 2300 people from 45 countries that have been involved in BBOP’s “Community of Practice” over the last decade and a half.  (For conference registration details, contact bbop@forest-trends.org). Together, the members have developed and tested best practice on how to design biodiversity-friendly development to ensure “No Net Loss” and preferably a “Net Gain” in biodiversity.

“If you follow what’s known as the mitigation hierarchy and avoid the most serious impacts, minimize your footprint, restore affected areas after the project and finally offset any remaining losses, it’s possible to plan development projects to result in the same level of, or more, conservation, instead of an overall loss of biodiversity,” explains Samir Whitaker, Business and Biodiversity Programme Manager at ZSL. BBOP has been the principal global forum for collective learning in this area and has developed an internationally recognized Standard to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain and roadmaps for government and business.

“There are many achievements to celebrate over the last 15 years, really spearheaded by BBOP,” says Jessica Nordin of forestry company Sveaskog, and the current Chair of BBOP’s Executive Committee. “BBOP can close, confident that it leaves an amazing legacy of useful tools, knowing that it has changed the standards to which mitigation of impacts is undertaken around the world, and that the work it inaugurated has now been taken on by many governments, companies, programmes and initiatives.”

There are already some encouraging results.  In 2014, 39 countries had existing laws or policies on No Net Loss or a Net Gain of biodiversity, biodiversity offsets or compensation, and now over 100 countries require or enable offsets. 94 financial institutions have set “safeguard” conditions for project finance that require no net loss of natural habitat and a net gain in critical habitat. Over 60 companies have also made public, company-wide commitments or have stated aspirations related to No Net Loss or Net Gain of biodiversity.

The roadmap for business explains the “why and what” of planning for Biodiversity Net Gain, including the opportunities and risks of doing so.  It helps companies work towards Biodiversity Net Gain in individual operations and partnerships at the site or project level; and/or across their business; and/or through their value chain; and/or support BNG as financial institutions through their investment strategy and engagement.

“We’ve learned so much in fifteen years of trial and error, working with companies in the field and supporting governments writing laws and policies,” explains ten Kate. “High quality policies and practices for Biodiversity Net Gain help the economy and the environment.  Poor ones result in costs, protests and liabilities. This is really a case of ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.’  That’s why such a varied group of organisations worked hard over 15 years to produce our Standard and all our handbooks and guidelines. We have the tools.  We hope that governments, business, and the financial community will join us in Paris to help us launch them at scale.”

The final BBOP conference (“Working for Biodiversity Net Gain: Taking stock and prospects for the future”) will be held on Tuesday 27 November at the Caisse des Dépôts, 15 quai Anatole France, 75007 Paris. To register, please contact bbop@forest-trends.org.

Topics on the agenda include:

  • Experiences of Biodiversity Net Gain planning from Eiffage, CDC and the governments of France and Luxembourg
  • Building expertise in finance for Biodiversity Net Gain, including financial mechanisms for mitigation.
  • Ensuring that Biodiversity Net Gain covers social issues: How to make sure people are left at least as well off after development projects and mitigation measures (including offsets) as they were before?
  • Using the Business Roadmap to plan for Biodiversity Net Gain for products, projects, whole companies, value chains, and through finance; and connecting biodiversity and natural capital.
  • How the scientific community can estimate losses and gains and provide evidence to support governments – a new scientific initiative and an example from Malaysia.
  • How Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea and Madagascar have brought governments, companies and conservation groups together to plan for Biodiversity Net Gain.
  • Four experts debate the motion, “Net Gain of biodiversity is realistic,” with speakers from the UK, Australia and South Africa, representing government, the private sector and academia.
  • Conclusions: What are the biggest remaining challenges to the vision of Biodiversity Net Gain?  Getting the right tools into the right hands: What further work and collaboration is needed?

For information about BBOP, see: https://www.forest-trends.org/bbop_pubs/overview2018

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