The Week in Biodiversity: Tianjin Leaves Little Hope for Nagoya Talks

Climate-change talks in Tianjin ended on a down note, with the REDD+ Partnership in dissaray and funding for forests — as well as biodiversity — in the balance.  Now attention shifts to Nagoya, Japan, where parties to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity had hoped to capitalize on momentun from Nagoya.  Here’s a wrap of the last two weeks’ biodiversity news.

Climate-change talks in Tianjin ended on a down note, with the REDD+ Partnership in dissaray and funding for forests — as well as biodiversity — in the balance. Now attention shifts to Nagoya, Japan, where parties to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity had hoped to capitalize on momentun from Nagoya. Here’s a wrap of the last two weeks’ biodiversity news.

NOTE:   This article has been reprinted from Ecosystem Marketplace’s Mitigation Mail Newsletter.   You can receive this summary of global news and views from the world of biodiversity markets automatically in your inbox every two weeks by clicking here.

9 October 2010 | It’s October – the month of the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention of Biological Diversity (or CBD COP10) in Nagoya, Japan. Over the past ten months, we’ve heard biodiversity emissaries like Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary-General), Ahmed Djoghlaf (the CBD’s executive secretary), Pavan Sukdev (TEEB study leader), and even American Actor Edward Norton (UN goodwill ambassador) wail on the dire state of biodiversity. Eight years ago, 192 countries made big promises to staunch biodiversity loss by 2010. But as the beans (and butterflies) were counted, it turns out that every promise was broken.

As negotiators head to Nagoya to promise again (2020 goals), Ecosystem Marketplace will be reporting on the latest hot topics, with original articles and on-the-ground blogging of negotiations and side events.   If you’re not a CBD geek, check out our CBD Cheatsheet to find out what all the hubbub’s about.

Using the CBD as a high-profile platform, expect to see a potpourri of reports released in the coming weeks.   A UNEP-FI / Principles for Responsible Investing report on the cost of environmental damage by human activity (spoiler alert: $6.6 trillion/yr) just hit the stands. Many others are in the works, including a UNDP / PriceWaterhouseCoopers report on the feasibility of habitat banking in Latin America, and a Global Canopy Project “Little Green Book of Biodiversity Finance.”   These and many more will be launched at one of the 346 side events of the CBD COP10.

With the international stage taking such dominance, US news has stayed on the sidelines. One noteworthy event is the launch of Mission Market Earth – an environmental exchange platform that ups the stakes in creating the infrastructure for functioning ecosystem markets.

Read on for the latest and greatest news on biodiversity markets.
—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at [email protected].



Restore Ecosystems, Fight Poverty

In the lead up to the three-day UN summit in New York, centered on poverty and the Millennium Development Goals, conservationists and international development workers were offering their take on the actions that need to occur for the Goals to be reached. Janet Ranganathan of the World Resources Institute, wrote an article arguing that ecosystem services are crucial to the poor, and that as ecosystems degrade, poverty increases.

Read the article here

Following the Rule

Mitigation bankers in the U.S. are frustrated by the lack of transparency in the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) application of ‘the Rule’, which stipulates that anyone who damages a US wetland should look first to mitigation bankers to compensate for the damage before exploring other alternatives. Apparently that’s not happening, as the same amount of compensatory US wetland restoration is being done by mitigation bankers today as two years ago when ‘the Rule’ was enacted, 30%. The number, according to wetland scientist Rich Mogensen, should have tripled. The argument comes down to the amount of flexibility afforded by the rule, with mitigation bankers saying the mitigation hierarchy is rigid, but the Corps arguing that there is wiggle room in applying the law. A letter, signed by more than a dozen groups and individuals, to Jo-Ellen Darcy, the US Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, demanded more transparency from the Corps after many bankers complained that the ACE was not consistently implementing all aspects of the Rule

Read about “the Rule” here

Brazil’s Forest Code Could Get the Ax

Brazil has for decades struggled with the desire to develop the Amazonian frontier and saving the forest. Passed in 1934, the Forestry Code helped slow the destruction, but a challenge to the law, which would rewrite many of the clauses that provide protection for the rainforest. For example, the amount of land legally required by the government to be protected in reserves has been reduced. Those guys over at Forest Portal are worked up about those provisions. Over at Biodiversity Markets, we’re not too happy about the bill reform that would reduce the mandated riverbank vegetation from 30 to 15 meters. Nothing is set in stone yet, and now that Brazil’s elections have occurred, we’re likely to see what will change in the Forestry Code.

Read more here

Mitigation News

Slouching Toward Nagoya

We wrote about the lead up to this year’s Convention on Biodiversity Conference of Parties back in April, going all the way back to the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and to this year’s May meeting in Nairobi. The New York Times have added another chapter, discussing the debate over poverty and biodiversity that took place at the UN conference that took place in New York last week. The debate is taking a clear shape now, with most points of discussion centering around a North/South, Developed/Developing schism over who should pay for biodiversity conservation and how. Expect to see a more drawn out argument later this month at the COP10 in Nagoya.

Read the New York Times article here

UN Delegates get an earful from Ban Ki-Moon

Do you remember the Millennium Development Goals formulated in 2000? There were eight which were supposed to be reached by 2015. And this one – Target 7b – references the Convention on Biological Diversity goals from way back in ’92: “Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.” Well, it’s 2010, and not only has biodiversity loss not been reduced, the rate is actually increasing. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the UN General assembly as much, in a relatively straightforward manner that will hopefully set the tone for the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan later in October. Ban directly invoked ecosystem services, which will also be a recurring theme at Nagoya. Delegates and activists at the UN General assembly alike were busy pointing out the link between the fight against worldwide poverty and biodiversity protection, noting that the world’s poor are the most dependent on ecosystem services.

Read more here
And an article from the BBC here

EU and China to Halt Biodiversity Loss by 2020

Ban Ki-moon wasn’t the only one feeling down about mankind’s failure to stop biodiversity loss. The EU parliament saw the release of a report “On the implementation of EU legislation aiming at the conservation of biodiversity” from Dutch MEP Christian Democrat Esther de Lange. She noted that while the EU’s budget isn’t getting any larger, existing policies should try to integrate biodiversity protection measures. The main EU-level instrument for safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is Natura 2000, a network of nature protection areas under the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, which has provisions for biodiversity and habitat offsets. So far, though, we haven’t seen widespread adoption of offsets under this policy. Still, the EU hopes to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

China is also promising to halt biodiversity loss over the next ten years, and they’re going to do it protected area-style. In the first national conservation plan released in 16 years, China aims to:
– Protect 90 percent of China’s protected species and key ecosystems through nature reserves
– Halt the loss of biodiversity in China by 2020
– Create new trans-boundary nature reserves and strengthen the country’s existing nature reserves
– Produce action plans at the provincial level

Read the press release here
And more about the EU’s report here
And about China’s goals here

TEEB Gets Local

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) launched another report this month – TEEB for local and regional policy makers . With the well-being of cities so dependent on ecosystem services TEEB’s study leader Pavan Sukhdev questions why natural capital remains largely invisible to policy makers at the local level. If you’ve read the other TEEB reports , they offer a lot of the same general information as this one. But the report is heavier on practical guidance and relevant case studies, not to mention the graphics and icons, reminiscent of an introductory-level college textbook. For an audience of local policy makers, that’s probably a good thing.

Read about it at Ecosystem Marketplace
And here
And more here

UK Still Thinking About Biodiversity Offsets

Biodiversity offsets were mentioned multiple times in this academic article summarizing a stakeholder input session with a team of representatives from 7 government agencies, 17 NGOs, and 6 academic institutions (all UK-based). The team was gathered to identify issues, policy options and research needs for conserving nature in the UK. In a brief section on habitat banking, “the authors suggest two levels of compensation: one for specifically targeted species or habitat types (i.e. those that have priority status) and one for more ?common? biodiversity for which more generic ‘habitat’ banking could be appropriate.”

Read about it at the Ecosystem Service blog

The Year of Big Figures:Environmental Damage Costs $6 Trillion Annually

I’m scratching my head a little because I thought TEEB went through an enormous effort to put out *the* Big Figure on the costs of biodiversity loss released last September. That report’s Big Figure was $2-$4.5 trillion, representing the annual economic impact of biodiversity loss. Now UNEP and PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) have released a report and their Big Figure is $6.6 trillion, but it’s a little bit different because it represents global environmental damage resulting from human activity. And the report provides and even bigger Big Figure: projected costs of global environmental damage is set to cost $28 trillion by 2050. Yikes!


Combining a review of academic literature with data analysis on the valuation of forests, the $6.6 trillion figure excludes externalities like water pollution, most heavy metals, and land-use change in non-OECD countries, and climate regulation and watershed protection weren’t included either. So who knows, maybe we’ll see a report with an even higher figure in the coming months.


The report also mentions that the world’s top 3,000 companies are responsible for a third of this damage. All this gloom and doom tees up an argument that yes, business, you should do something about this.

Read about it here
And read the press release here

The Economist Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The Economist published an excellent special report on forests in their September 25th – October 1st issue. This first article highlights some basic forest economics issues and cites The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and its draft report on the Amazon forest. The authors also mentioned The Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services (InVEST) software which forecasts the economic and environmental outcomes of proposed land-use change actions. With the recognition of undervalued forests and the work of such innovative schemes like InVEST and PES comes the potential for greater and more effective conservation results.

The second article on REDD provides a macroscopic view of the current status and potential for REDD and claims that, “a commitment to launch REDD, with ‘substantial finance’, was the only obvious success of last year’s Copenhagen summit on climate change.” The REDD Partnership, which met in Oslo in May, aims to move REDD forward and define details for a global REDD deal. REDD’s future is certainly in question, especially beyond its current small scale magnitude, and if its benefits are not large or long-term enough across the developing world then the mismanagement of the world’s forests will only continue.

Read about forest economics here
Read about REDD here

Biotropica’s 2010 Year of Biodiversity Issue

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has included a special section on the biodiversity in its September 2010 issue of Biotropica. has put together a list of the issue’s editorials dealing with biodiversity conservation.

Read more here
Check out the table of contents here

Name a Species Competition: Winners

The Guardian conducted a novel competition back in July asking the public to assign common names to 10 rare UK species. The competition led to an impressive turnout of more than 3,000 received entries, and given the rapid extinction of animals and plants in England the results indicate a flood of public interest in UK wildlife and conservation. The overall winner was the Queen’s Executioner beetle for the species, Megapenthes lugens. Natural England and the Oxford Museum of Natural History teamed up with the Guardian for organizing the competition.

See the full list of winners here
George Monbiot: Ten species now have an identity we can care about

Development and Gorillas?

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published a new report on the effectiveness of strategies to resolve biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development interests in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda. The selected strategies include multiple use, tourism, revenue sharing, sustainable agriculture programs, and on-farm substitution. The strategies have led to generally positive results where community attitudes to the parks have increased over time, especially as households receive park-related benefits. The conservation trust fund and agricultural interventions such as agricultural development or substitution programs led to the most significant impacts on attitude improvement towards the parks. This report is yet another example of the importance of linking conservation and development by ensuring clear and measurable benefits to local inhabitants and continued conservation activities.

Read more here

Conservation Economists to the Rescue

John Reid, founder of Conservation Strategy Fund gives an interview to Monga Bay about his insights into the alignment of conservation and economic valuations of the environment and the role of conservation economists. Conservation Strategy Fund is a California-based nonprofit that trains conservationists to use economics and strategic thinking as assets to conserve ecosystems around the world.

Read the interview here

Florida Country Proposing to Open Wetland Mitigation Bank

Flagler County in East Florida has approved the purchase of a 980-acre property (of which ~150 acres are ‘uplands’ along the Intercoastal Waterway) with the idea of developing the land into a wetland mitigation bank. The county is hoping to sell ten freshwater wetland credits at $100,000-$160,000 and 70-80 saltwater credits at $180,000-$250,000. The will pay around $4.5 million for the land, but hopes to pocket around $7 million in profit from wetland mitigation credit sales.

Read more here
And here


CA Tiger Salamander Mitigation at $80,000 / acre

To mitigate for potential impact to tiger salamander habitat, a rock quarry developer will be spending $80,000 per acre to “replace salamander habitat damaged by mining operations, plus put up fencing around the quarry site to ward off the amphibians and hire an on-site biologist during each phase of the work.”

Read more here


Williamette Partnership Update

The Williamette Partnerhsip has been implementing a training program over the past several months on the business, science, and operations aspects of ecosystem markets. The training program seeks to build capacity of people’s work in emerging markets in addition to increasing engagement. Some examples of the kinds of activities occurring as a result of training are calculating the ecological outcomes of restoration projects, testing the repeatability of credit calculators, etc. By increasing capacity, qualified third parties can assist land managers seek new markets, design projects, and move credits towards marketable products.

Read more here


Ten New East Texas / Arkansas Wetland & Stream Mitigation Banks in the Works

Mitigation bank marketer Mitigation Solutions USA has announced ten new wetland and stream mitigation banks in the works in east Texas and Arkansas. All but three of the banks are combined wetland and stream. A short list of banks is provided below. Visit their newsletter for more information.

  • Keystone Mitigation Bank; Location: Rains County, Texas
  • Daisetta Swamp Mitigation Bank; Location: Liberty County, Texas
  • Fall Off Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Coryell County, Texas
  • Murvaul Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Panola County, Texas
  • Scoober Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Rusk County, Texas
  • Spellbottom Mitigation Bank; Location: Walker County, Texas
  • Davis Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Searcy County, Arkansas
  • Dutch Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Yell County, Arkansas
  • Hartsugg Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Van Buren County, Arkansas
  • South Fork Creek Mitigation Bank; Location: Van Buren County, Arkansas

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