We are experiencing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity in ecosystems around the world. And approximately 10 to 30 percent of all mammal, bird, and amphibian species are threatened with extinction. A major cause of biodiversity loss is the clearing of natural habitats for agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, mining, transport and construction – activities that countries often count on to provide jobs, services and foreign exchange.
At a development site, creating solutions to the environmental impacts are often not enough to fully alleviate the damage incurred to biodiversity. Rather than leave a legacy of biodiversity degradation on the project site and in the surrounding area, companies are looking for ways to minimize and compensate for their residual environmental footprints. Many are recognizing that biodiversity offsets can be an effective tool that can contribute to conservation and deliver livelihood benefits for local communities.
The Business and Biodiversity Offset Program (BBOP), managed by Conservation International and Forest Trends, is a partnership of companies, scientists, NGOs, government agencies and research institutions to explore biodiversity offsets. Biodiversity offsets are conservation actions intended to compensate for the residual, unavoidable harm to biodiversity caused by major development projects, to ensure at least “no net loss” of biodiversity and where possible, a net gain.
The objectives of BBOP are:
- Demonstrate conservation and livelihood outcomes in a portfolio of biodiversity offset pilot projects;
- Develop, test, and disseminate best practice on biodiversity offsets; and
- Influence policy and corporate developments on biodiversity offsets so they meet conservation and business objectives.
Each offset must demonstrate additional and measurable conservation outcomes. While appropriate offset activities will vary from site-to-site, a range of different land (and marine) management interventions could typically be involved in biodiversity offsets, including:
- Strengthening ineffective protected areas: improving the conservation status of certain neglected zones in a forest reserve by replanting degraded areas with native species and/or removing invasive alien species.
- Safeguarding unprotected areas: for instance, by entering into agreements with local communities as custodians of biodiversity.
- Addressing underlying causes of biodiversity loss: working with communities to address their livelihoods, such that unsustainable activities (currently depleting biodiversity – e.g. charcoal burning or crop plantation in forests) are stopped.
- Establishing corridors: identifying and securing the conservation management of land that provides biological corridors between protected areas.
The BBOP Pilot Portfolio
Businesses, governments and communities need to see how biodiversity offsets will work in different circumstances to learn their effectiveness in different industry sectors, for different kinds of biodiversity impacts, for operations at different scales, in different regions and ecosystems and policy environments. The current portfolio of pilot projects involves a range of ecosystems, scales of operation, industry sectors and varied policy settings in biologically significant areas. This varied portfolio will allow BBOP partners to assess how these factors influence the success of biodiversity offset projects.
For the first time, companies will be able to measure their impacts on biodiversity and seek to offset them through activities that advance conservation goals at the landscape level. The offsets will explicitly contribute to national biodiversity priorities and address local livelihood needs on biodiversity.