The danger of biodiversity offsetting

The following press release from Friends of the Earth UK refers specifically to the situation within the UK and case studies within the UK. It is given here because of the danger of the use of biodiversity offsetting on an international stage, especially in relation to the rich biodiversity in Central America.

FOE Press release: Offsetting is a massive threat to wildlife, warn environment groups
Monday, June 2, 2014 – 10:57

Biodiversity offsetting is already being used by developers to justify schemes that will cause irreversible harm to nature, warn over 15 environment groups across the world today (Monday 2 June 2014), ahead of a major biodiversity offsetting conference in London this week.

It comes as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is soon to decide on controversial plans to allow developers to destroy precious wildlife habitat, provided there is an attempt to offset the damage elsewhere.

Such schemes are known as biodiversity offsetting, and FERN and Friends of the Earth are concerned that its introduction could allow developers to push through projects that would have devastating impacts on irreplaceable habitats and our wildlife.

New evidence published today by Friends of the Earth and FERN identifies a number of cases around the UK where offsetting is already being proposed by developers. This evidence and the accompanying photographs will be showcased in a public meeting in London tonight organised by environment groups from around the world.

One such case is Smithy Wood, near Sheffield, an ancient woodland much loved by local people, which is now threatened by a motorway service station. The developer has proposed planting new trees and improving management of another woodland to offset the damage, but local campaigners say they would still lose a forest that it would take 850 years to re-establish.

Friends of the Earth Nature Campaigner Sandra Bell said:

“Developers are already gearing up to use biodiversity offsetting to bulldoze some of our most precious wildlife sites.

“There is no clear evidence that biodiversity offsetting works – attempts abroad have frequently ended in failure.

“Owen Paterson should stop gambling with our green and pleasant land, abandon his ill-conceived offsetting plans and give UK nature the protection it so sorely needs.”

FERN Biodiversity Offsetting Campaigner Hannah Mowat said:

“Offsetting is already weakening the UK’s planning laws and exposing nature to new threats.

“The EU – which is considering similar legislation – should watch closely before going further.

“Together we can prevent offsetting from creating chaos and upsetting nature laws across Europe.”

Notes to editor
1. Case studies and photos are available in the biodiversity offsetting evidence published by Friends of the Earth and FERN:
2. Campaigners and biodiversity experts will gather this evening (Monday 2 Jun 2014) in a venue in Regent’s Park for an open meeting to discuss the problems with offsetting schemes in the UK and overseas Photos of offsets from around the world will be exhibited.
3. The conference ‘To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond’ will take place on 3 and 4 June. It is hosted by BBOP, an organisation committed to biodiversity offsetting along the ZSL, Defra and Forest Trends Isaac Rojas from Friends of the Earth International and Hannah Mowat from FERN will be speaking in a plenary session on Tuesday 3 June 2014 to offer an alternative to the pro-offsetting perspective being promoted at the conference.

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Reproduced by kind permission of Friends of the Earth UK