A new conservation tool is eagerly anticipated by business leaders around the world.
Take Jim Clarke, BP’s Project Manager for Local Environmental Impact. Clarke is tasked with identifying any possible environmental sensitivity in areas BP has targeted for the routing of new pipelines or the placement of a new facility.
Speaking from his hotel room in India, a country in which BP Exploration has never worked, it takes no stretch of his imagination for Clarke to easily picture how the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for business will make his job easier.
The IBAT for business is a web-based consolidated database of information on the highest priority sites for conservation. It will provide companies like BP with "a heap of information," says Clarke, "that will be very helpful in evaluating environmental concerns."
Clarke, a civil engineer, is particularly excited about IBAT for business because it can be used by anyone within BP – including engineers, who are often the ones working on-site at a potential new project – and not just environmentalists.
IBAT for business gives engineers an ability to tap into information on conservation priorities that has been collected from several different data sources and now is accessible in one centralized database. When consulted at an early stage of a project, this information can alert the company to such sensitivities as the presence of endangered species or protected areas.
IBAT for business, which is being officially launched on October 6 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, is the result of a partnership between Conservation International (CI), BirdLife International, and the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), with support from private sector corporate partners such as BP, Bank of America, Cargill, Chevron, JP Morgan Chase and others.
“BP is proud to have been a partner since the launch of the work on IBAT,” states Clarke. The company’s involvement resulted from a project that Clarke was working on where they found themselves potentially exposed due to not having a complete understanding of the sensitivity of an affected area.
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IBAT for business provides integrated information for two main types of sites: legally protected sites, which include nationally designated parks and reserves, and globally important sites for biodiversity, which are known to be home to globally threatened species, endemic species, globally significant concentrations or populations, significant examples of biological communities, or any combination of these features. IBAT for business helps users understand how this data fits within the wider context by including information on broad-scale global conservation priorities, administrative boundaries and populated places.
“So our early involvement was associated with a need to help us understand the risks associated with accessing new areas and to help us avoid sensitive areas when routing pipelines, roads and other project facilities,” Clarke explains. “This has grown as BP now has an internal screening process – Environmental Requirements for New Projects – that will be enhanced with the use of IBAT.”
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BP and other companies were involved in the testing phase of IBAT for business to ensure that it would be user-friendly. If it wasn’t, they suspected, no one outside of the environmental community would use it. Clarke is thrilled about the ability to easily put the information collected by users of IBAT for business into software like Google Earth or PowerPoint to share with decision-makers ranging from business and governments to development banks.
"In many ways," Clarke points out, "lots of us use ‘PowerPoint engineering’ in our day-to-day life and this tool will be of great benefit."
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