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This Week In Biodiversity: NMEBC Coverage, No Net Loss And New Finance

Ecosystem Marketplace’s coverage of last week’s National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking conference includes a conversation with the incoming president of the National Mitigation Banking Association and a look at the Department of Interior’s new mitigation strategy. Outside of the conference, The Nature Conservancy and JP Morgan Chase launch an impact investment platform aiming to raise $1 billion for conservation projects. 

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

 
14 May 2014 | Greetings! We’re back in the office after a busy week at the annual National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference in Denver.

The National Mitigation Banking Association saw its annual change of leadership at the conference. Ecosystem Marketplace spoke to its incoming president Wayne White about priorities this year. These include a continued stress on pushing for hard data and transparency across mitigation methods. There’s also a new focus on partnerships with the non-profit sector.

A recent strategy put forth by the Department of Interior on mitigation and a raft of upcoming policy from the US Fish & Wildlife Service were big topics of conversation. Another highlight of the conference was the focus on emerging market opportunities, like enlisting banking as a partner in securing funds and developing green and natural infrastructure in coastal regions, and partnering with the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program. A strategy for coordinating conservation banking with Habitat Conservation Plans, rather than seeing the latter undermine the former, was also a recurring topic.


Outside of Denver, it’s been a good month for restoration finance: a new impact investment platform is set to be launched tomorrow by TNC and JPMorgan Chase, with an ambitious goal of raising $1 billion for conservation projects in its first three years. On the Forbes blog, a piece tracing the growth of private capital support for wetland restoration offers a model for other eco-markets. And in the EU, a new $40 million financing facility for natural capital aims to leverage private finance for biodiversity offsets and payments for ecosystem services projects.

On the other hand, two items suggest that ‘no-net-loss’ is still more talk than action: the US EPA is putting a big asterisk after its no-net-loss for wetlands claims, while a paper reviewing corporate no-net-loss/net positive impact commitments finds a mixed bag in terms of the details and quality of commitments.

Enjoy!

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

 

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


EM Exclusives

Coverage from the National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

Earlier this month, the Ecosystem Marketplace team was in Denver to cover the annual National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference. With regulators back in attendance after last year’s sequestration-forced absence, lots of new policy on the horizon, and the banking industry poised for a big year, we did our best to keep up. Here’s a summary of our coverage:

After Turbulent Year, Mitigation Bankers Meet In Denver

A preview of the key issues from the past year and how they might play out in Denver.

Data, Transparency, And The Role Of Non-Profits: Wednesday At NMEBC

A detailed wrap of Wednesday’s discussions, including a summary of the morning meeting of the NMBA and afternoon sessions examining the challenge of finding water for wetlands in the aird American West, the role of non-profits in mitigation banking, and a preview of the policy horizon for 2014.

USFWS Contemplating Move Beyond CCAs To State-Administered Crediting Systems For Non-Listed Species

A breakout string focusing on emerging policies shaping conservation banking.

We summarize Thursday’s events and include interviews with NMBA president Wayne White and Partnerships Committee co-chair Adam Davis talking about NMBA accomplishments and priorities in the coming year.

 

Millions Of Dollars Now Flowing To Indigenous Ecosystem Service Programs In Brazil

The Brazilian state of Acre spent the last three years building a comprehensive framework to support good land stewardship through payments for ecosystem services (PES). Now they’ve primed the pump with 6.5 million Reais ($2.9 million) to help indigenous people get their PES programs off the ground. More than half of that has already been delivered, and indigenous leaders say they can’t wait to get started.

Learn more here.

 

Department Of Interior Scales Up Its Mitigation Strategy

From developments in oil – like the Keystone XL pipeline – and natural gas developments, to the recent push of renewables, there has been a massive increase in energy projects in the US. And much of it is happening on public lands. Last summer, President Barack Obama highlighted renewable power as a means to curb climate change. He directed the Department of Interior (DOI), which manages Federal lands, to permit enough renewable projects to power 6 million homes. And legislators seeking to further extend the fracking boom to federal lands have been working legislation through Congress to scale up the practice.

This energy expansion will undoubtedly have impacts on the natural environment. And these impacts will require mitigation. Earlier this month, the DOI released a new strategy on improving mitigation policies aiming to enhance the conservation outcomes and also improve the efficiency of the permitting process for infrastructure and development projects.


The report lays out ten clear principles to guide mitigation practices, and discusses some upcoming initiatives, including a framework for the greater sage-grouse and a technical reference on mitigation in solar energy zones.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Download the strategy (pdf).

Mitigation News

NatCap Protocol Ready for Testing

The Natural Capital Coalition, a platform for supporting and developing valuation methods on natural resources for businesses, has published two reports that help push their goal forward. The first, titled Valuing Natural Capital in Business: Towards a Harmonized Protocol, is a framework listing steps companies can take to integrate natural capital into their decision making. The steps include:

  • Be prepared to describe why it is important to measure, value or account for natural resources
  • Make sure the argument covers risk mitigation, supply concerns, traceability factors and reputation benefits
  • Address the “added value” to business

The second report takes stock of existing initiatives in the natural capital accounting space to provide a baseline for businesses and allow them to see what’s currently happening. “The intent of the framework is not to invent new methodologies or guides unnecessarily, but to build on the existing front runners, by including technical innovations and filling gaps that can enable scalable integration of natural capital considerations in business,” the report reads. The authors note a disconnect between how natural capital is discussed and also how it’s perceived: “We definitely need to clarify and define what we’re talking about,” says Dorothy Maxwell, the Coalition’s CEO.

The results of both reports are drawn from over 140 companies, NGOs, policy makers and others. The Coalition is planning to publish an updated version of the framework by the end of this year based on findings from companies testing the guidelines. The protocol will then be put into practice during a pilot phase which ten companies have already agreed to participate in.

Get coverage from GreenBiz.
Get copies of the reports here.

 

NGOs Sue FWS Over Lesser Prairie Chicken Plan

Three conservation organizations have joined forces to legally challenge the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over their decision to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with a special 4(d) rule. The special rule exempts those participating in a state organized conservation plan from ESA regulations. The three conservation groups – Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity – argue the FWS conservation strategy is inadequate to prevent extinction. The grouse’s population has plummeted by 50 percent in the last year, to less than 18,000 birds.


Regarding the state level conservation plan, the organizations say the size of habitat required under the plan is too small while enforcement to ensure survival and recovery of the prairie chicken is minimal. The three NGOs are also suing on the basis that the bird was listed as threatened and not endangered. An endangered listing would have made conservation measures mandatory for all. The NGOs are suing to force full federal protection for the bird.

Learn more here.

 

Natural Gas Boom Boosts Mitigation Banking in Pennsylvania

Mitigation banking is coming to Pennsylvania on a large scale. Amidst the natural gas development boom, banks will serve as a helpful mechanism in maintaining the state’s 84,000 miles of streams that will be impacted by pipelines and other infrastructure needed for energy development. “The Marcellus Shale brought us here,” said Russell Krauss of Louisiana-based Resource Environmental Solutions, the parent company of First Pennsylvania Resource, a banking firm seeking to restore two wetlands and streams in Pennsylvania’s Washington County.


Banking is a mostly new idea to Pennsylvania. Prior to the natural gas boom, mitigation banks were mainly used to mitigate smaller impacts from road activities. Amanda Witman of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment says, “natural gas development has created the need for mitigation banks for timely permitting options.” As of right now, Pennsylvania Resource is the only company with an approved bank in the region. But bankers may face competition from a proposed alternative, the Pennsylvania Integrated Ecological Services, Capacity Enhancement and Support Program (PIESCES), currently under federal review.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has coverage.

 

No-Net-Loss: Credit for Trying?

Since 1989, the EPA has had a ‘no net loss’ target for wetlands, and has reported that it’s achieved that goal under the Clean Water Act’s section 404 for fiscal years 2009-2011. But a recent review from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General recommends that the EPA “clarify” its no-net-loss claim for wetlands by noting that it’s based on the assumption that all mitigation projects meet performance standards. Since not all projects do fully meet standards, the review suggests that that the EPA’s (rather heroic) assumption “hampers the public’s understanding of the EPA’s actual performance in protecting wetlands.”

Get a copy of the review here.

 

TNC and JPMorgan Chase Announce New Impact Investment Platform and $1B Goal

The Nature Conservancy and JPMorgan Chase announced that this month they’ll be launching a new effort to raise finance for conservation projects. TNC’s NatureVest platform will link projects to institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. JPMorgan Chase has committed an initial $5 million to the effort and support in building out the platform infrastructure.

The NatureVest initiative aims to attract impact investors, who so far have focused mainly on social good projects. The goal: raise $1 billion over the next three years. “The number is intentionally big because we think the marketplace is big,” says Bill Ginn, chief conservation officer at The Nature Conservancy. “We want investors to say, ‘I have an environmental component in my portfolio because that’s a smart place to invest these days…It’s one thing to ask for a contribution. It’s another thing to ask someone to invest with you in the future of the world.”

Read more at GreenBiz.
Visit the NatureVest site (full launch is on May 15th).

 

Farming and Habitat Restoration Mingle in CA’s Central Valley

A new effort to bolster migratory bird habitat in California’s Central Valley uses a unique mix of technology and market mechanisms to create temporary habitat in the region. The BirdReturns program, funded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), uses smartphone data collected by volunteers to map habitat needs. TNC then pays rice farmers through a reverse auction – the lowest bidder wins – to keep their fields flooded as migrating flocks arrive. Expenses are modest, since water supplies are only temporarily reallocated. And farmers have shown themselves to be receptive to the private-sector nature of the initiative. BirdReturns is one example of a growing movement called ‘reconciliation ecology’, where environments inhabited by humans support biodiversity in creative ways.

Read more at the New York Times

 

Natural Capital Financing Facility Green-Lighted in EU

The EU’s LIFE program will oversee a new natural capital financing facility to support biodiversity and conservation efforts, it was announced late last month. The NCFF will have up to €30 million (US $41m) in funding to leverage private finance, with a focus on providing upfront capital and operating funds for biodiversity offset and payment for ecosystem services projects. The Facility expects to support three or four projects per year.

Learn more.

 

No Net Loss/Net Positive Impact Goals Go Under the Microscope

A paper published this month by The Biodiversity Consultancy in the Oryx journal tracks the uptake among corporations of ‘No Net Loss’ and ‘Net Positive Impact’ (NNL/NPI) goals. Thirty-two companies have set public goals of that nature since 2001, led by the mining industry. The authors take a close look at these commitments and offer a framework of NNL/NPI goal components most likely to deliver results. Perhaps unsurprisingly, detail and quality of goals vary from “vague environmental statements” to more thorough approaches. Factors behind corporate goals, the role of regulation, and the state of implementation are also discussed.

Read the paper here.

 

Private Capital Slowly Warming Up to Eco-Markets

A new post up at Forbes traces the role of private capital in restoring wetlands in the United States. As wetland mitigation banking has grown, so has investor interest. Private equity firm Ecosystem Investment Partners has raised more than $200 million to date – and notably, most of that financing isn’t coming from impact investors, but more mainstream pension funds, endowments, and high-net-worth family offices. These capital flows in turn are delivering larger projects.

Still, there’s a lot of room for growth. Investment opportunities that meet Wall Street standards for quality management and deal size remain relatively rare. The hyper-local nature of projects, high level of expertise required to assess their value, and regulatory unpredictability are also barriers. “We need more success stories in the ecosystem markets space,” says Howard Kaplan, president of Farmvest Inc.

Read it at the Forbes Ashoka blog.

 

A How-To Guide for System Resilience

The natural world and human society are linked together, with one impacting the other. While it’s clear that we should build up resilience to surprises and uncertainties in our social-ecological systems, it isn’t often clear how. The Stockholm Resilience Centre is aiming to change that with a paper that provides seven principles on building and applying resilience to ecosystem services. The principles examine techniques that have worked in various parts of the world. For instance, the first guideline is diversity and redundancy: a system with many components is more resilient. Case studies on declining fisheries in Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar found fisherman living in households with diverse livelihoods more willing to stop or slow down on fishing. Other guidelines, each featuring fascinating examples, include managing connectivity and polycentric governance.

Learn more at TEEB Web.

 

Building the Case for Wetland Restoration

Storms like Hurricane Sandy showed us what happens when cities build right up to the waterfront: the coast is left exposed. One of Sandy’s legacies is an interest in using wetlands as horizontal levees, impeding onrushing waters and helping to limit damage.


A new report from Oxfam America and Center for American Progress is the latest to stress the economic value of healthy wetlands – from flood risk mitigation to carbon sequestration and recreational opportunities. The authors estimate that wetlands can prevent $13 billion in nitrogen pollution and provide up to $51,000 of storm protection per hectare each year. The study reminds readers that despite President George H.W. Bush’s “no net loss” policy on wetlands, between 1998 and 2009, the US has lost an area of wetlands larger than the state of Rhode Island, while people continue to build on the nation’s coastlines.

Get the full story from Fast Company.
Download the report.

 

A Guide to Biodiversity for Business

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has created a manual to guide businesses in assessing, valuing, reporting and managing their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The private sector must be responsible for their own impacts, say the authors, but in order to do that they need information on nature-related risks and opportunities. This is where the manual comes in, explaining existing knowledge products companies can utilize in implementing sustainable business practices.

Get a copy of the guide here.

 


 

JOBS

Director, Supply Chain Integrity

Rainforest Alliance – New York NY, USA

The Director, Supply Chain Integrity will be responsible for overseeing strategy, operations, and general management of Rainforest Alliance’s Supply Chain Integrity program through direct management of the Traceability, Trademarks, Chain of Custody, claims based system, and related components. S/he will also be responsible for ensuring the integrity of the Rainforest Alliance Certifiedâ„¢ (RAC) seal by overseeing the implementation of policies and guidelines provided to registered companies using the seal for their certified products. In addition, s/he will ensure that all strategies and activities of the business unit are fully coordinated with SAN, pursuant to policies and agreements for mutual governance and oversight of the SAN-RA sustainable agriculture certification scheme. S/he will coordinate closely with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), and internal teams including Accounting, Information Technology, RA-Cert, Markets Transformation, Sustainable Agriculture, and Legal to provide oversight of systems and policies in place to trace Rainforest Alliance certified products throughout their supply chain. S/he will also interact externally with clients/stakeholders.

Learn more here.

 

Environment and Climate Adaptation Specialists

Management Systems International – Multiple locations

MSI seeks to build a roster of environment and climate adaptation specialists for short- and long-term assignments on upcoming USAID initiatives. Consultants will lead and manage technical work related to a variety of donor-funded projects, including climate change programming and adaptation; biodiversity conservation; coastal, fisheries and wildlife management; wildlife trafficking; land tenure reform; and public sector management. Specific assignments will vary, and they may include planning, policy support, training, project design, assessments, and leading or overseeing evaluation design, data collection, and report writing. Applicants should specify in their cover letter in which regions they have experience and in which regions they are willing to work.

Learn more here.

 


 

EVENTS

Webinar: Impact Evaluation of Conservation Programs

This talk, organized by the Marine Ecosystem Services Partnership and the Conservation Strategy Fund, will discuss the need to embed impact evaluations of conservation programs in a more comprehensive economic framework. Impact evaluations typically pay no attention to heterogeneity in the costs and benefits of conservation programs, but such heterogeneity is fundamental to conservation decisions. On their own, the results of impact evaluations offer little guidance for conservation decisions. They must be combined with information on costs and benefits: evaluation must be combined with valuation. 20 May 2014. [11:00 EST] Online.

Learn more here.

 

Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How Large-Scale Restoration Can Stimulate Sustainable Development

For the 7th edition of its Future Environmental Trends Conference Programme, the Veolia Environment Institute organizes jointly with Agence Française de Développement, International Union for Conservation of Nature and US National Research Council Water Science and Technology Board an international event on “Ecosystems, Economy and Society: how large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development”. It will provide an international platform for scientists, practitioners, NGOs, business leaders and policymakers to discuss remarkable case studies, best practices and share better insights on the potential of large-scale ecosystem restoration for the improvement of people’s livelihoods, jobs creation and socio-economic development, together with the recovery of ecosystems functionalities, continuity and biodiversity. 29-30 May 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here

 

To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond

This gathering will be the first global conference on approaches to avoid, minimise, restore, and offset biodiversity loss. It will bring together experts and professionals from business, governments, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society and research, and intergovernmental institutions with an interst in demonstrating no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity. London, UK. 13-14 June 2014.

Learn more here.

 

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. Deadline for paper submission is 15th May 2014. 21-23 September 2014. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Learn more here.

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