This Week in Biodiversity: Offset Action Down Under

We’re not sure what they’re putting in the water Down Under, but we like it. Quite a few stories on biodiversity market development in Australia popped up this month, from policy developments at both state and national levels to offset requirements in action at proposed projects in Western and Southern Australia.

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 automatically in your inbox here.

12 October 2011 | We’re not sure what they’re putting in the water Down Under, but we like it. In this month’s MitMail we’ve got quite a few stories on biodiversity market development in Australia, from policy developments at both state and national levels to offset requirements in action at proposed projects in Western Australia and Southern Australia.
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Read on for the latest news in market mechanisms in biodiversity protection and policy.
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Open Discussion: Do We Need Shared Governance to Capture Shared Value?


As corporations, industries, governments and non-profits begin to define agricultural sustainability criteria, farmers often run into an entangled accounting system. In these top-down efforts, agencies rely on USDA’s and EPA’s program and practice-driven processes. A recent AgEQA (Agricultural Environmental Quality Assurance) project in Minnesota applied a shared governance model instead, using land-based indices allowing farmers to provide “reasonable assurance” that they met water quality goals.


One possible explanation for the relative success of the AgEQA is best expressed in “Carlson’s Law,” which states that”due to access to cheap tools, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” In other words, to capture ecoservice values, do we need to construct a bottom-up web approach rather than rely on the top-down linear model? Tim Gieseke of Agricultural Resource Strategies is posing this question at Ecosystem Commons this month and wants to know what you think.


Chime in to the discussion here

Rimba Raya Debacle Casts Pall Over Indonesian REDD

Bureaucratic machinations on the part of Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry have knocked the wind out of a pioneering forest carbon project, the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve REDD Project, that had become one of the first to attract big-league financing, lured in part by the promise of a profitable carbon market and expected to achieve a triple gold rating under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. Many are now left wondering about the future of REDD, not to mention forest carbon projects’ potential to do double-duty as biodiversity protection mechanisms by delivering much-needed financing.

Get the full story here

From Shades of Grey to Shades of Green

Infrastructure: it was like a chorus resonating throughout the entire speech that President Obama gave last month. He spoke of the need to fix aging roads, bridges, schools, just about everything. And yet the President forgot one crucial piece of infrastructure in his statements: natural infrastructure. Why, asks Ricardo Bayon writing at Ecosystem Marketplace, wasn’t there a bold “Green Infrastructure” investment plan to match the President’s bold “Grey Infrastructure” investment plan? Can we not put Americans to work restoring the forests and wetlands that provide us with clean air and clean water?

Read more here

Mitigation News

Australia’s National Offset Policy: No Net Loss?

As the Australian Government mulls a national biodiversity offset policy, Philip Gibbons of the Australian National University has written a thoughtful piece on what biodiversity offsets can and can’t do to stem biodiversity loss in the country. He argues, for example, that “the fault with many offset programs, including the Australian Government’s recent offering, is they promote the protection of high quality habitats as suitable offsets. If you think about it, a site that is already in good condition has little scope for improvement. So, this strategy actually results in a net loss of bushland.” On the other hand, Gibbons points out, offset requirements will certainly make developers think twice before clearing native habitat, perhaps the strongest argument for the policy.

Read the piece here

IPBES Talks Convene in Nairobi

UN delegrates met in Nairobi, Kenya last week as preparations for a new UN body, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) continue. The talks focused on protocols for IPBES’ operation. The new platform is modeled on the UNFCCC to coordinate international research on biodiversity loss and effective conservation policies. IISD Reporting Services has summary highlights from the meeting.

Read a press release here
Read summary highlights from IISD

TEEB: Coming Soon to a City near You


The folks who brought you TEEB for Local and Regional Policy Makers have teamed up with ICLEI and the IUCN on a new report, TEEB for Cities: Ecosystem Services for Urban Management, spelling out for city governments how to identify, value, and incorporate ecosystem services into urban planning. It offers a crash course in ecosystem services valuation for policymakers and lots of helpful mini-case studies. The report doesn’t go into great detail on biodiversity market mechanisms, but one case study on a series of workshops in rural South Africa exploring an ‘incentive toolbox’ offered some very interesting lessons.


Download the report here (pdf)

Australian Government Reckons Mine “Social License to Operate” to be 140,000 Hectares of Offsets

The Australian federal government has announced approval for expansion of the BHP Billiton Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, contingent on more than 100 environmental conditions being met. These include a 140,000 hectare offset area, roughly eight times the size of the mine site itself. The stringent environmental requirements come amidst strong public concerns about impacts to cuttlefish breeding sites and water pollution from mine activities.

Learn more here

Big Offset Project Proposed in Western Australia

Chevron has gotten a tentative go-ahead in Western Australia to build a liquified natural gas and domestic gas plant. But they won’t be breaking ground until they get federal approval on a biodiversity offset plan. Chevron’s biodiversity offset strategy is expected to generate significant funding for habitat protection and ongoing management in the area, including indigenous sea rangers to monitor impacts to marine and coastal habitats, removal of barriers to sawfish migration, and research on seagrass ecology. “The strict conditions I’ve imposed on the proposed project will help to protect threatened and migratory species such as dugongs, marine turtles, sawfish, dolphins and whales and the marine environment,” said Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Read more here


Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Monique Barbut, CEO and Chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) sat down on September 20th for a live WebTV show to talk about the UN Decade of Biodiversity and answer questions submitted by viewers worldwide. The discussion covered the GEF’s financing goals, climate change adaptation, and how businesses like Wal-mart have seen profits by protecting biodiversity.

Watch the WebTV show here

Here’s How to Measure It – Now Go Manage It

Corporate ecosystem service impact reporting just got a little easier, thanks to a new report from UNEP , the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and CREM , a Dutch consultancy. Approach for Reporting on Ecosystem Services: Incorporating Ecosystem Services into an Organization’s Performance Disclosure offers firms some strategies for estimating and disclosing the financial value of ecosystem services. The report suggests a range of indicators that can support well-informed decision-making, like the volume of sustainably-produced inputs, or the ratio of volume of water consumed to total water availability in the area of operation.

Read the press release
Download the report (pdf)

Call for Papers: Biodiversity Governance in Central and Eastern Europe

With accession to the European Union, countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are undertaking the project of political and policy reform. This includes policy for biodiversity protection – an especially relevant topic in many of the biodiversity-rich CEE countries. The journal Environmental Conservation is exploring this subject in an upcoming themed issue, and has put out a call for papers looking at harmonization of national legislation with EU policies and directives related to biodiversity governance.

For more information and to submit a manuscript, click here

Queensland Australia Welcomes Offsets to the Family

Queensland’s new state Biodiversity Offset Policy went into effect on October 3rd. Offsets were previously permitted in the state, but policy was “not necessarily consistently applied.” The new policy formalizes a mitigation hierarchy of using offsets where impacts cannot be avoided or minimized.

Read the Press Release Here



Ag-Only Wetland Bank Planned in the Land of 10,000 Lakes


Minnesota agricultural producers will soon have their very own wetland bank, designed specifically for credits to be bought and sold by farmers. The new bank is hoped to help meet no-net-loss goals while keeping the best agricultural land in production. While government has long been the usual buyer of wetland credits, the ag community has emerged as a source of demand in Minnesota, given farmers’ desire to keep agricultural land in protection and a concurrent need to offset wetland conversion under the federal farm bill and Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act.


Read more here

Building a Better Farm Bill


Last month, Sara Vickerman of Defenders of Wildlife spent some time on Ecosystem Commons ‘ Soapbox asking what it would take to ensure that payments for ecosystem services under the US farm bill have more positive biodiversity impacts. Do we eliminate subsidies for corn ethanol? Restructure conservation payments to be outcome-based rather than practice-based? With the farm bill up for reauthorization in 2012 (as happens every five years or so), it’s time to start thinking about it.


Read the discussion here

In Charlotte NC, Mitigation Business is Good

The South Charlotte Weekly has a new article up, highlighting Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services’ success in its stream and wetland mitigation banking activities. Charlotte was the first US city to create its own mitigation bank in 2004, using credits from restoration to mitigate impacts from city and county construction projects. The bank has ‘sold’ $1.8 million worth of credits to date, and is looking at 78 streams in the area as potential future restoration sites.

Learn more here

Speed-Reading Wetland Mitigation News

A quick round-up of wetland and stream mitigation banking news from around the Web shows lots of action in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, including in Houston (where energy industry activity has meant lots of recent demand for mitigation credits), Louisiana , and Alabama . We’ve also come across a proposed new bank in Coos County , Oregon and three new banks in the state of Washington . One site (the Remy bank) faces enough demand in the short-term that it’s gotten approval from permitting agencies to provide direct off-site mitigation for impacts for buyers, instead of following a standard ten-year wetland credit release process. At the other two bank sites in Washington State, credits are expected to sell for between $125,000 and $190,000.




UNEP-FI Global Roundtable “The Tipping Point: Sustained Stability in the Next Economy”

UNEP FI’s 2011 Global Roundtable is the perfect opportunity to cast a spotlight on what the sustainable development agenda means for the world’s finance, investment and insurance sectors. 19-20 October. Washington, DC.

Learn more here


Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: New Tools to Help You Address Risk and Opportunity

Societal expectations of companies’ management of impacts and opportunities related to biodiversity and ecosystem service (BES) are changing fast. The recently revised IFC Performance Standards and emerging national and regional policy frameworks on BES create a new landscape for your company or clients’ operations. This one-day training session by the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) will prepare you to handle biodiversity risk and opportunity by focussing on the requirement for ‘no net loss’ in IFC Performance Standard 6 and the emerging BBOP standard on biodiversity offsets. 26 October. Washington DC.

Learn more here (pdf)



The National Academies KECK Futures Initiative Ecosystem Services Conference

Simply put, ecosystem services are the benefits that human beings receive from the ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Some of these benefits are easily quantified and can be assessed in economic terms (e.g., timber, food), whereas other services are more difficult to define and quantify (e.g. soil formation, toxin filtering, nutrient cycling or recreational benefits). Around the world, scientists, philanthropists, governments and communities are grappling with how we can support human well-being while considering the needs of our planet. Areas the conference might explore include linking human and environmental needs, measurement, and agriculture and aquaculture. 10-13 November. Irvine, California.

Learn more here



The TEEB Conference 2012, Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: Challenges for Science and Implementation

TEEB invites the research and policy community to Leipzig, Germany, to discuss the state of the art in Environmental Valuation, Ecosystem Services and Science-Policy Processes. Conference participants will have the possibility to discuss and update the findings of the TEEB study and contribute with their own findings, experiences and approaches to a new understanding of the link between economics, decision-making and the environment. 19-22 March, Leipzig, Germany.

Learn more here


SAC-SEPA Biennial conference: Valuing Ecosystems: Policy, Economic and Management Interactions

This conference will seek to present not only the best possible scientific understanding of the complexities associated with the delivery of multiple ecosystem services but also provide a forum to raise and discuss what still needs to be done to have an ecosystem approach recognised and supported by land managers, researchers and policy makers. 3-4 April 2012. Edinburgh, Scotland.

Read more about the conference here.

Learn more here





Fauna & Flora International

Ecosystem Services Specialist, Americas and Caribbean

Due to our expanding programme of work, FFI is seeking an individual to support our developing programmes in Environmental Markets and Ecosystem Services. S/he will work with the

Environmental Markets team and the Americas and Caribbean team to explore the issues and

develop opportunities within the current Environmental Markets and Americas and Caribbean

Programmes presented by the environmental markets and ecosystem services concept.

Learn more here (pdf)


University of Idaho

Graduate Assistantships in Ecosystem Service Economics & Policy

The University of Idaho’s Department of Conservation Social Sciences in the College of Natural Resources is offering graduate assistantships for one Ph.D. and one M.S. student to assist in research on ecosystem service economics and policy.

Learn more here


University of Amsterdam

Postdoc position: Ecosystem Service Assessment, BiodivERsA Project CONNECT

The University of Amsterdam seeks to fill a postdoctoral position focusing on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The successful candidate will make, on behalf of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), a leading contribution to the recently funded ‘CONNECT’ project: Linking biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services: advancing insights in tradeoffs and synergies between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem service values for improved integrated biodiversity policy.

Learn more here (pdf)


Additional resources

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