Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Government's biodiversity offsetting proposals 'too simplistic'

Leigh Stringer in edie.net:  [The UK g]overnment proposals to introduce a system of 'biodiversity offsetting' must be improved to properly protect Britain's wildlife and woodlands, according to the Environmental Audit Committee.  In September, the Government set out proposals for biodiversity offsetting in a Green Paper consultation, Biodiversity Offsetting in England.

The Green Paper envisages the development of 'habitat banking', where an offset provider would restore or recreate habitats in anticipation that they would be able to sell the offset units at a later date.  Although the new system could enhance the way the planning system accounts for the damage done to valuable natural habitats, there is a risk of giving developers "carte blanche to concrete over important habitats," according to the Environmental Audit Committee report on the proposals.

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley MP, said there is a danger that an overly simplistic offsetting system would not protect long-established eco-systems, such as ancient woodland and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  The Government's Green Paper does not provide an evidence based analysis of how offsetting would deliver "biodiversity gain", according to the MPs.

A major concern highlighted by the Committee is the twenty minute assessment for calculating biodiversity losses at a site, proposed by Ministers, which it also labels "overly simplistic".  According to the committee, it should include particular species, local habitat significance, ecosystem services provided - such as pollination and flood prevention - and 'ecosystem network' connectivity to reflect the full complexity of habitats....

Whitelee forest. New wind turbines and forest clearing machine, a Ponsse harvester. Shot by Scott, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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