News Articles

This Week In Biodiversity: Global Summit On No Net Loss In London

Natural capital accounting is generating a lot of attention lately with a new report warning companies of the perils of ignoring natural capital risk while the World Bank-led WAVES initiative is noting some advancements in the space. And BBOP is back from the London Zoo with feedback on the no net loss of biodiversity summit.

Natural capital accounting is generating a lot of attention lately with a new report warning companies of the perils of ignoring natural capital risk while the World Bank-led WAVES initiative is noting some advancements in the space. And BBOP is back from the London Zoo with feedback on the no net loss of biodiversity summit.

This article was originally published in the Mit Mail newsletter. Click here to read the original.

13 June 2014 | Greetings! We’re back from London, where earlier this month Forest Trends, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme, the Zoological Society of London, and Defra hosted an overflow crowd at the To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond summit.

Offsetting has been more than a little controversial in the UK and elsewhere, and that debate was front and center at the meeting in London. In advance of the summit, a counter-workshop was organized nearby by environmental groups. And inside the conference, a special session was organized to give critics a chance to air their views.


There are still a lot of questions on how best to move forward on offsetting (with some preferring not to move forward at all), but at the summit we saw efforts to find a middle ground. At an ‘Opportunity or Peril’ debate, signs of agreement started to surface by the end of the discussion. Most panelists reiterated that good planning and the mitigation hierarchy were of primary importance. In fact, one audience member pointed out that perhaps “biodiversity offsets” were receiving the brunt of what was probably much broader discontent with weakening in land planning and environmental protection – in England at least. There was also agreement that success requires that the mitigation hierarchy be reinforced with clear legislation and strong enforcement, as seen in the German and US systems. Some skepticism remained that offsets in isolation could be positive, and would not lead to easing of protections and even corrupt environmental NGOs with a dependence on destruction-based funding.


Of course, design matters just as much as implementation does. As Morgan Robertson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wetlandia blog told the counter-workshop, “You get what you measure in offsetting, and usually you are measuring the wrong thing.”

Biodiversity offset pilots in the UK and a proposed national framework offer an opportunity to “seize this moment of measurement,” and have a robust debate that clears up misconceptions and addresses legitimate concerns about offsets. A piece in the Guardian wonders whether the UK government and other stakeholders have the appetite to continue that conversation. We hope so. One place to start is the current consultation on an EU-level No Net Loss Initiative that recently opened, seeking public input on introducing a continent-wide mitigation hierarchy to reverse ongoing biodiversity decline – including whether to utilize offset mechanisms.

Other conference highlights included sessions on designing and implementing national or regional ‘No Net Loss’ frameworks, stacking and bundling of ecosystem services, and an incredible quantity of experience shared by practitioners from around the world. Stay tuned for video interviews and other conference footage – they’re in the editing room and will be made available soon at Ecosystem Marketplace.


In other news this month, an historic ecosystem services compensation law has finally passed in Peru, while in Queensland, Australia a new Offsets Act promises to streamline offset approvals.


Natural capital accounting has also been in the news a lot recently, with a new review of the World Bank-led WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership citing some recent achievements in implementing natural capital accounting at the country level (like in the Philippines) and engaging the private sector. Businesses ignore natural capital at their peril, warns a new report that finds a bevy of challenges – unsustainable profit levels, cash flow problems, supply chain risk and reputational damages – for firms that fail to account for natural capital.

 

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.



EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

Six years in the making, Peru’s new Ecosystem Services Law passed last week, providing a comprehensive legal framework for the sticky issue of payments for ecosystem services. It is one of the most advanced pieces of legislation of its type, but had been stuck in committee for five years. Peru’s National Congress passed the country’s ground-breaking Payments for Ecosystem Services Law (Ley de Mecanismos de Retribucií³n por Servicios Ecosistémicos) with 83 votes in favor and none against, with no abstentions, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment.

 

The law provides a legal framework to support a diverse range of ecosystem services – including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, biodiversity conservation and the preservation of natural beauty. Investments in watershed services (IWS), an already popular water management method in the country, have also been incorporated into the proposal.

 

There are two parties involved in the compensation process that the law lays out. The first are land stewards – farmers, indigenous peoples, landowners and individuals involved in ecotourism, who act as the receivers of ecosystem services. The other group – mostly civil society, businesses and municipalities – are the payers. They compensate the land stewards to practice sustainable land-use. These sustainable practices ensure businesses and cities will have the ecosystem services, like clean water and air, that they need to survive and thrive.

 

The government will be responsible for identifying the payers and also for administering the compensation process.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.


The water-energy-food nexus: Interlinked solutions for interlinked challenges

Ecosystem Marketplace is launching a series of stories leading up to the State of Watershed Payments 2014 report release date that looks at global challenges related to the nexus and the various approaches businesses, government and the world as a whole are taking to address this issue.


In the latest article in the series, we take a look at how our demands for energy, food and water all drive each other, and how we can prevent them from driving in the wrong direction. We examine cases from India to California to sketch out what, exactly, the “nexus challenge” is, and how we can meet it. (Hint: it involves putting nature in the nexus.)

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

 

 


EM Exclusives

Peruvian Congress passes historic ecosystem services law

Six years in the making, Peru’s new Ecosystem Services Law passed last week, providing a comprehensive legal framework for the sticky issue of payments for ecosystem services. It is one of the most advanced pieces of legislation of its type, but had been stuck in committee for five years. Peru’s National Congress passed the country’s ground-breaking Payments for Ecosystem Services Law (Ley de Mecanismos de Retribucií³n por Servicios Ecosistémicos) with 83 votes in favor and none against, with no abstentions, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Environment.

 

The law provides a legal framework to support a diverse range of ecosystem services – including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, biodiversity conservation and the preservation of natural beauty. Investments in watershed services (IWS), an already popular water management method in the country, have also been incorporated into the proposal.

 

There are two parties involved in the compensation process that the law lays out. The first are land stewards – farmers, indigenous peoples, landowners and individuals involved in ecotourism, who act as the receivers of ecosystem services. The other group – mostly civil society, businesses and municipalities – are the payers. They compensate the land stewards to practice sustainable land-use. These sustainable practices ensure businesses and cities will have the ecosystem services, like clean water and air, that they need to survive and thrive.

 

The government will be responsible for identifying the payers and also for administering the compensation process.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.


The water-energy-food nexus: Interlinked solutions for interlinked challenges

Ecosystem Marketplace is launching a series of stories leading up to the State of Watershed Payments 2014 report release date that looks at global challenges related to the nexus and the various approaches businesses, government and the world as a whole are taking to address this issue.


In the latest article in the series, we take a look at how our demands for energy, food and water all drive each other, and how we can prevent them from driving in the wrong direction. We examine cases from India to California to sketch out what, exactly, the “nexus challenge” is, and how we can meet it. (Hint: it involves putting nature in the nexus.)

Keep reading.


Mitigation News

Queensland trims the fat with new offset law

Queensland’s new Environmental Offsets Act, passed in late May, will replace five separate existing offset policies in the state with a single framework. It also tightens the conditions under which an offset can be required. Under the new Act, an administering agency may not impose offset conditions for areas where an offset is already required by the Commonwealth (i.e. the national government), or where the Commonwealth has determined an offset is not required. Proponents also now have a choice between delivering their own offset, making a financial settlement, or a combination of the two. The new legislation has supporters in both the public and environmental spheres, who are heartened by the prospect of a more efficient offsetting process. The Act is expected to take effect in mid-2014.

Read legal analysis from Clayton Utz at Lexology.
Get coverage of the Act’s reception here.


Is private money the missing link for coastal restoration?

Private investment could fill in the funding gap for conservation and wetland restoration activities. That’s being demonstrated in southeastern Louisiana where $181 million of private money was invested into the East Orleans Land Bridge project. The project area, which includes a wetland mitigation bank, will dredge sediment and rebuild marshes. And with private investors, the restoration process should be speedier than when dealing with government funding.


America’s Wetland Foundation is promoting the private investment strategy and involved in coastal restoration projects that connects investors with private landowners. “There are large investment funds that are looking for this kind of investment,” Val Marmillion, the foundation’s managing director, told the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation last week.

Read more at the New Orleans Advocate.


European Commission seeks input on a No Net Loss initiative

A European Commission consultation has opened seeking public input on achieving ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity on the continent. Despite a range of policy measures protecting biodiversity on the continent, ecosystems and species continue to decline. An EU-level ‘No Net Loss’ initiative, envisioned as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, would enshrine a mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, then mitigate) in planning. The consultation is open until September 26th.

Read a press release.
View the consultation.


Natural capital accounting receives high marks on progress report

Natural capital accounting (NCA) is taking off, it seems, with the World Bank-led WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership seeing potential for it to influence environmental policy and reach new corners of the globe. WAVES recently released its Annual Report 2014 and notes some key achievements. Among them are the inclusions of three new core implementing nations (Indonesia, Guatemala and Rwanda) and a rise in private sector engagement. Partnerships that helped spread awareness and individual progress reports on several countries are also highlighted. The goal of WAVES is to promote sustainable growth by mainstreaming NCA and integrating it into economic policy and development planning.

Learn more.
Read the Annual Report 2014 here (pdf).


The Philippines assess natural capital with help from WAVES

In order for a nation to continue to grow and prosper, its economy must be based on sustainable practices. Activities that degrade ecosystems and the natural services they provide, like clean water and forests products, leave nations vulnerable to environmental risks and an uncertain future. To gain a better understanding of how the natural world contributes to national wellbeing, the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is examining natural capital accounting (NCA). While the effort is still in preliminary stages, NEDA says it will allow them to better understand impacts from development and opportunities to replenish natural capital. The Philippines is participating in the WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) Partnership – a World Bank-led initiative aiming to integrate NCA into policy planning – and will continue to collect data and learn more as case studies in the Philippines and other countries unfold.

WAVES is an international partnership specifically aimed at delivering sustainable natural resource management to policymakers in terms they can understand. It is a collaborative worldwide project that uses applied research to better understand the loss of ecosystem capital and the implications those losses have on people.

Business World Online has coverage.


A case for habitat banking in Colombia

Recent studies from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the UN Programme for Development (UNDP) suggest that industrial growth in Colombia is outpacing environmental protection. Coal mining permits grew by 87 percent between 2004-2008, for example. Land included in mining applications amounts to more than a third of the country’s area. Rules for compensation and environmental penalties exist, but they are poorly tracked and enforced.


A new report from NGO Fundepíºblico proposes a path toward no net loss, through the introduction of habitat banking in Colombia. “In Colombia there are enough areas with clear title that are inappropriate for agriculture, and could be used for protection and conservation,” Mariana Sarmiento, author of the report, tells Semana Sostenible. “Banking has a clear record in other countries. It is a viable solution for Colombia and it’s important to begin this discussion,” she says.

Read the article and learn more about Fundepíºblico’s report at Semana Sostenible (in Spanish).


Ignoring natural capital risk means big losses for business

“If we continue operating ‘business as usual,’ by 2030 it is estimated that we will need the natural capital equivalent of two planets to sustain ourselves,” says a recent report authored by a collaboration of institutions, including the Natural Capital Coalition. But most businesses don’t account for their natural capital as they do for their financial assets. This is dangerous because the report found that companies that do nothing face unsustainable profit levels, cash flow problems, risks to their supply chains and damage to their reputations.


There are several well-known companies taking initiative, however. Coca-Cola, for instance, has pledged to replenish back to the Earth as much water as it uses by 2020, and Dow Chemical Co. is piloting a project in Brazil meant to assess the economic value of ecosystem services. And it’s not just businesses with direct impacts that need to play a bigger role. Accountants have a responsibility to integrate natural capital accounting into their organization. The report laid out recommendations for accountants to achieve this. They include framing risks and opportunities in business terms, and embedding natural capital into corporate decision-making.

Read more at Bloomberg.


Oregon ranchers seek ways to conserve Greater Sage-Grouse habitat

The greater sage-grouse is a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act and one of several animals the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will make a listing decision on in the near future. For the greater sage-grouse, the decision will come in the fall of 2015. In the meantime, many of the eleven states that contain the bird’s habitat are going ahead with conservation plans in an attempt to prevent an endangered or threatened status.


One of these states is Oregon. The state holds some of the best remaining grouse habitat but that same territory also supports vast ranching operations. Those operations contribute heavily to Oregon’s economy. Because of this contradiction the state is attempting to establish Candidate for Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) in Oregon’s largest county, covering over a million acres of private land. Under the agreements, landowners agree to voluntarily manage their property in sage-grouse friendly ways. In return, they won’t be subject to future regulatory requirements if the bird is listed. For the most part, reaching agreements and implementing CCAAs has gone smoothly between private landowners and FWS officials. That success has helped officials branch out across the state, introducing CCAAs for sage-grouse in other Oregon counties.

Outdoor Life has the story.


“Green” EU agricultural reforms are bad news for biodiversity, say experts

New Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) “greening” reforms are not so green, say experts. A new study published in Science shows that 80-90% of farmers could be exempt from new environmental requirements, and that budgets to encourage voluntary conservation are shrinking. Rules for environmental measures, while in theory a positive step, “are so vague as to be useless,” as the BBC puts it. “The new greening measures will not work,” co-author Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of Cambridge tells Agriland. “They simply promote the establishment of grass monocultures. Yes, reference is made to the planting of hedges. But no encouragement is given, so as to ensure that new hedging is managed properly. It’s all pretty self-defeating.” And the reforms do little to protect grasslands, the continent’s most endangered habitat. The report estimates that under the new rules five percent of grassland will likely be lost.

Keep reading at BBC News.


New book makes the case for PES

Degraded landscapes, endangered species and depleted oceans indicate that the Earth is in need of care, but finding the funds in order to deliver the care is difficult. A new book, Global Biodiversity Finance: The Case for International Payments for Ecosystem Services, proposes new global markets for ecosystem services that could finance and deliver conservation. The book argues the current spending on global conservation – which primarily comes from NGOs and government – is just not sufficient to maintain healthy ecosystems. The private sector must play a role here, the book says, by sustainably managing their natural assets. Moreover, recognizing humanity’s dependence on ecosystem services and initiating a transparent and publicly-accountable supply of conservation projects will increase funding flowing toward conservation work.

Read all about it at the Forbes blog.


A guide to building blue carbon projects

The Abu Dhabi Blue Carbon demonstration project recently released an introductory guide to building blue carbon projects. “Blue carbon” – the carbon sequestered by marine and coastal ecosystems like mangroves, saltwater marshes, and seagrass meadows – is both a highly efficient climate mitigation strategy, and (potentially) the key to saving these rapidly disappearing ecosystems. The authors stress that the report is not a step-by-step guide: blue carbon is a relative newcomer in the world of climate mitigation projects and much remains to be learned in terms of both the science and best practices. The report, however, does identify basic project phases and some key considerations. It also discusses elements of project success, lessons to be learned from REDD+, and how a ‘ridges to reefs’ approach could enhance resilience and productivity of coastal and marine systems.

Download the report (pdf).


The roundup

Finally – a few brief items from around the web:

 


EVENTS

 


Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.


16th Annual BIOECON Conference: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability

The BIOECON Partners are pleased to announce the Sixteenth Annual International BIOECON conference on the theme of “Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability”. The conference will be held once again on the premises of Kings College Cambridge, England on the 22nd -23rd September 2014. The conference will be of interest to both researchers and policy makers working on issues broadly in the area of biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development and natural capital, in both developed and developing countries. 21-23 September 2014. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.


ACES 2014 Conference: Linking Science, Practice, and Decision Making

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services communit

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