This Week in Biodiversity: Australia’s Got Some Good News, and Some Bad News…

Australia streamlines biodiversity offsets at the state level in New South Wales, but the national Biodiversity Fund will be defunded to the tune of $231 million as a side effect of the country moving to a floating carbon price. Meanwhile, wetlands are on everyone’s mind in the Gulf of Mexico, and a new crowdfunding platform is launched.

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

21 August 2013  |    Greetings!  This month’s MitMail brings you a quartet of stories on the Gulf,  where big things are happening. We cover a  pathbreaking new lawsuit  against oil and gas over wetland impacts in the region, a  new wetlands carbon pilot,  and a  power company that, in the aftermath of Katrina, saw the climate writing on the wall  and is pushing ahead adaptation efforts.


Biodiversity offsets are pushing new frontiers  too – in  Colombia  and  Peru,  and in tandem with Obama’s drive for renewable energy development in the US  (where, we write, the system for mitigating renewables impacts could use a little work).


We also have some good news, and some bad news, from  Australia. New South Wales recently  reformed  its biodiversity offsets framework, establishing a fund to channel money from the mining industry and other developers into the “bio-banking” system and making the offsetting methodology more transparent. On the other hand, the federal government’s announcement that it’ll introduce carbon emissions trading ahead of schedule has had the  side effect of defunding the national Biodiversity Fund  by AUD$231 million – or by about one-fifth.

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EM Exclusives

A Six-Step Approach To Determining What Can And Cannot Be Offset

Little guidance is provided on the complex issue of biodiversity offsetting and considering which impacts are offsetable. That is why a group of thought leaders from the biodiversity space have outlined an offsetability evaluation process that determines the success and appropriateness of specific offsets. The process was recently presented in a webinarhosted by Forest Trends’ collaborative initiative on biodiversity offsets and conservation banking systems, the  Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme  (BBOP). 

–  Keep reading.

Clearer Rules On Mitigation Needed To Boost Renewable Energy Projects

US President Barack Obama’s recent  climate change plan  highlights renewables with ambitious goals. These targets include doubling the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar power by 2020 and generating 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025, according to the plan.


But these goals will only be achieved if they are in line with mitigating wildlife impacts. Several clean energy projects are currently stalled over endangered species permitting requirements and Obama’s plan doesn’t take any steps to clarify, systematize or standardize this permitting process.


When a landowner develops a piece of land, ecosystems that are unavoidably disrupted or ruined must be replaced through  compensatory mitigation.  But compensatory mitigation laws are complex and, as of right now, in no condition to take on the expected rise in renewable energy projects due to Obama’s recent push.

–  Get the full story here.

Building A More Resilient Gulf

Charlie Broussard, a shrimper on the docks in Cocodrie, Louisiana, has seen the wetlands he paddled through as a kid shift dramatically – literally. In fact, the Louisiana coastline is changing so quickly that fisherman and oil rig workers who have spent their lives navigating the bayou by boat sometimes get lost as familiar landmarks are drowned. In Louisiana, 1,880 square miles of land has vanished since the 1930s, and the current rate of land loss is equivalent to a football field every  38 minutes.


To begin to address these vulnerabilities, Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan prioritizes 109 coastal restoration projects, at a price tag of $50 billion. But, with 85% of Louisiana’s coast controlled by private landowners, others are looking to the private sector to support wetland restoration.


In September 2012, the American Carbon Registry approved a wetlands methodology that will allow landowners to quantify the carbon sequestered by restoration projects and then sell verified emissions reductions (i.e. carbon offsets) to voluntary offset buyers.


Entergy, a utility with 2.8 million customers in the Gulf and the company that invested $150,000 to help develop the wetlands methodology, has the right of first refusal on the Luling project and is planning to purchase some of the carbon offsets produced by the restoration work. The company sees wetlands as a kind of natural insurance that will buffer their infrastructure in an  uncertain climate future.

–  Keep reading.

Ecosystem Services Front And Center As Lawsuit Seeks Restitution For Destroying Louisiana Wetlands

The coastal lands along the Gulf of Mexico have created a natural protective buffer against damaging weather events. The buffer took 6,000 years to form, but it’s at the brink of destruction, with hundreds of thousands of acres now gone because of the activities of the oil and gas industry, according to a new lawsuit. The lawsuit filed against about 100 industry players says it’s now time for these companies to pay up.

The lawsuit was filed on July 24 by the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, a public entity that is responsible for governing the levee districts of Orleans. The authority monitors the integrity of coastal lands, considered a necessary complement to the entity’s flood protection system, but its job has become increasingly more challenging because of the deterioration and disappearance of the state’s coastal lands, according to the lawsuit.

“This is a very interesting next step in climate change asserting itself into the legal system and the political system,” says John Nevius, chair of the Environmental Law Group of Anderson Kill & Olick. “It seems like kind of a new front in the effort to focus people on this issue.” Even if the suit fails, it could push the concept of ecosystem services into the mainstream. 

–  Learn more here.

Louisiana Wetlands: Why We All Need Them, And Why Oil Companies Aren’t The Only Ones On The Hot Seat

Author John Barry is best known for his eminently readable accounts of scientific advances, while humorist Harry Shearer is best known for his improv and voice acting skills. Barry, however, is also vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, (SLFPAE) which was created after Hurricane Katrina to protect the east bank of the Mississippi River in the greater New Orleans area, while Shearer also hosts the weekly radio program Le Show on National Public Radio. 

The SLFPAE is the levee authority that’s  suing Chevron, Exxon Mobil and 95 other oil and gas companies over wetland degradation  along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.  In an interview with Shearer, Barry offers big-picture insight into the factors degrading the coast and driving the suit.

“We don’t blame the oil and gas industry for all of the land loss,” Barry says. “We do say they are responsible for some of the land loss. We’re just asking them to pay for the part that they’re responsible.”

–  Read a summary of the Shearer-Barry interview here.

Entergy Seeks To Lead On Climate Risk Mitigation

Power company Entergy got a stark wake-up call about climate risks and the need to mitigate them when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew through its service area in 2005, and the company lost its New Orleans headquarters for a year. That rude awakening has morphed into a wide-ranging effort to identify and address the risks that climate change present to the company’s customer base, service area, and utility infrastructure, most of which are located in the Gulf Coast region.


“We want to make sure we identify the risks facing us so that we don’t get caught unprepared, as I feel we were after Katrina,” says Brent Dorsey, the company’s director of corporate environmental programs.That’s spurred the company into backing wetland restoration in the Gulf, strengthening its infrastructure, and even relocating entire departments to reduce climate risk exposure.

–  Keep reading.

Colombia Takes Lead In Latin American Biodiversity Offsetting

Colombia, Períº, Ecuador and Chile are all wrestling with ways to balance economic growth with environmental protection, and representatives from all four countries last month participated in  talks hosted by Peru  to explore biodiversity offsetting mechanisms from around the world and see which, if any, could work best for them.


“The tremendous growth in interest worldwide over the last three years in rigorous mitigation measures, including biodiversity offsets, is now visible in Latin America,” says Kerry ten Kate, Director of Forest Trends’ Biodiversity Initiative. “As elsewhere, it’s spurred by new regulations, tighter loan conditions by financial institutions and the voluntary business case”.


Of the four, Colombia has most clearly embraced biodiversity offsets. Recent policy developments there require planned development projects such as mining, oil and gas infrastructure to offset residual biodiversity impacts by restoring or protecting an equivalent habitat elsewhere. Thenew regulation  is based on two key principles: no net loss and ecological equivalence. Furthermore, it establishes offset ratios that range from  1:4 to 1:10.

–  Ecosystem Marketplace has analysis.

Peruvians Aim For Regional Cohesion On Biodiversity Offsets

Late last year, Colombia enacted a “no net loss” policy on a whole range of planned development projects – meaning that any roads, mines, and pipelines that damage habitat must restore habitat of equal or higher value nearby or face penalties. It’s a clear response to the surge in construction and mining there, and a first step towards creating biodiversity offsets.


With gold prices hovering around $1,300 per ounce, energy demand on the rise, and infrastructure investments as high as they’ve ever been, Colombia, Peru and Chile all face growing threats to their rich natural heritage, and each is exploring ways of ensuring that any loss of habitat is offset by a gain. Last month, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment (MINAM) hosted a meeting in Lima designed to help the three compare, contrast, and perhaps even harmonize their approaches to compensatory mitigation banking. 

–  Keep reading.

Mitigation News  

NSW Takes Its Biodiversity Offsets System for a Tune-Up

Reforms to biodiversity offsets in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, promise to streamline and clarify the system. Central to changes is a new biodiversity offsets fund. Developers will now be able to pay a fee into the fund, which the state government will then direct toward conservation efforts through the  existing “bio-banking” framework.

NSW officials say that the fund will help to simplify offsetting for industry and other developers.  “The new fund will see money directed for environmental improvements where they  are most needed; while relieving developers of the responsibility to make  environmental decisions for the state,” said  NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker.

The reforms additionally set out clear offset principles and calculation methods, and introduce a ‘tiered approach’ that lets developers fund restoration projects or wildlife recovery efforts as supplemental alternatives to land-based offsets. The new rules also suggest that  an offset ‘discount’ can be applied to projects that offer “significant social and economic benefits to NSW.”

–  Read a press release.
–  Get analysis on what the reforms mean for the mining industry.

As Carbon Goes, So Goes Australian Conservation

Australia’s federal government announced last month that it  plans to introduce carbon emissions trading in July 2014, a year ahead of schedule. That replaces the  fixed-price carbon tax with a floating carbon price. It’ll bring the price of carbon down from $25/ton to an estimated $6/ton – but it will also create a AUD $3.9 billion shortfall in government tax revenues, including support for the  Biodiversity Fund,  which is funded by the carbon tax.

The Biodiversity Fund, established in 2012 with nearly a billion dollars allotted, has already committed somewhat more than AUD $200 million to projects supporting an array of conservation issues, including endangered species recovery, wetlands protection, and improving habitat connectivity. Now, Treasurer Chris Bowen says the government has no choice but to reduce funding by AUD $231 million. A floating carbon price, with the introduction of cheaper European credits, will also likely signal the end of the  Carbon Farming Initiative,  which promotes soil carbon credits generated by Australian farmers and landowners. Ouch.

–  Read more about the government’s announcement.
–  The Guardian has analysis on impacts for biodiversity and soil carbon.

Crowdfunding Comes to the Eco-Marketplace

This week, Mission Markets announced its latest venture:  Mission Crowdfund,  a platform that lets the public buy environmental credits and fund other ventures. Offerings right now include  “adopting” a Utah prairie dog  (via habitat enhancement projects),  buying a water offset certificatefrom the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, or helping to  pay for  solar-powered vaccine refrigerators  in Kenya. The idea is to link everyday people (and their pockets) to environmental markets and other worthy causes. “Often financing solutions are limited to sophisticated investors,” said Ken Marienau, CEO of Mission Markets.

–  Read more at the Mission Markets blog.

How to Explain Conservation Banking to Your Grandmother

An opinion column in USA Today makes the case for conservation banking to the general public. The piece, penned by Wayne Walker of Oklahoma-based Common Ground Capital, sets out the basic process and principles of banking, which, Walker writes,  bring[s] together competing environmental and economic growth forces”  to protect the lesser prairie chicken and other imperiled species. “As one who has spent his career in the private energy sector and has attended numerous meetings and workshops with government, energy and environmental groups on the chicken, it is clear the one thing all sides most want is certainty,” he says.

–  Read it here.

ESR in Action: Dispatches from Brazil

Last year, the  Brazilian Business and Ecosystem Services Partnership(PESE) formed over a commitment to evaluate and manage ecosystem impacts and dependencies in Brazil. Members, including Walmart, Danone, PepsiCo, mining companies, a cosmetics firm, and agribusiness, agreed to apply the World Resource Institute’s  Corporate Ecosystem Service Review  (ESR).


A recent article in GreenBiz gives us an update on PESE: armed with knowledge from the ESR, Walmart is targeting its beef supply chain to acheive zero deforestation by 2015. Danone is looking at improving biodiversity and soil quality at the dairy farms from which it sources milk. Mining companies now consider ecosystem services in their impact assessments. All of these initiatives are in early stages, but the firms and their partners believe that they’re proving that “Brazil’s business sector can be both sustainable and profitable.”

–  Read the piece at GreenBiz.

Here’s a New One: Payments for Ecosystem Services…Monitoring

Yesterday, the San Miguel, Colorado county government released a report detailing recent efforts to compensate private landowners in exchange for permitting researchers to access their land for field surveys. The project, carried out with financial and technical support from Colorado State University, focused on imperiled rare plant species. Ultimately the county contracted with seven landowners, who collectively received $3,350 in payments. Two new populations of the target species were discovered. Next up: a similar project to gather data on the endangered Gunnison Sage-Grouse.

–  Learn more.

Yasuni Hail Mary Goes Nowhere

Some bad news out of Ecuador: the clock has run out on President Rafael Correa’s promise to protect biodiversity hotspot Yasuni National Park from oil exploration in exchange for international aid to the tune of $3.6 billion (roughly half of the estimated value of oil underlying Yasuni). Though some national governments and celebrities kicked in funding, the effort has gone nowhere. Last week, Correa announced that he will allow oil drilling in the park to proceed, though  he downplayed its effects, saying drilling would only  impact  0.1 percent of the Yasuni basin (where, scientists say, “any football-field-sized area of Yasuni has more species of trees than the U.S. and Canada combined”).

–  PBS has coverage.

Mitigation Roundup

Finally, in our monthly mitigation roundup:




6th Annual International ESP Conference 2013

Organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) and convened by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and CGIAR Research Program: Forests, Trees and Agroforestry in collaboration with the Sub Global Assessment Program coordinated by UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the UNCCD-Global Mechanism, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES), and other ESP partners. 26-30 August 2013. Bali, Indonesia.

–  Learn more here.

Biosymposium 2013: Biodiversity Resilience

The annual Biodiversity Institute Symposium this year will tackle the subject of Biodiversity Resilience. Factors leading to the loss of resilience in social-ecological systems are the focus of many excellent on-going research programmes and symposia. However, this two-day symposium aims to highlight the other side of the resilience research agenda – namely factors that promote and lead to resilience of biodiversity. The symposium will showcase ongoing research that examines the biotic and abiotic processes and mechanisms responsible for biodiversity resilience (ranging from genomics to landscape-scale), through to policies and management that ensure resilience of biodiversity now and in the future.2-3 October 2013. Oxford, UK.

–  Learn more here.

Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will bring together business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around Southeast Asia to discuss commitments and policy recommendations to increase sustainability across seven sectors – agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, mining, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.The forum will discuss the transformational journey to the green economy and offer practical ways to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. 18-19 November 2013. Singapore.

–  Learn more here.

World Forum on Natural Capital

The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 and the many developments that have taken place since. The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together world-class speakers, cutting edge case studies and senior decision makers from different sectors, in order to turn the debate into practical action. Lively plenaries and interactive breakout sessions in four conference streams will explore the risks and opportunities for business, allow access to the very latest developments and provide an opportunity to help shape the debate through dialogue between policymakers, business leaders and prominent experts in the field. 21-22 November 2013. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

–  Learn more here.

2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users.  Submit proposals for panels and presentations online by October 1st!  6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

–  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, engine

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