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.[1]

The conference – “To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond” on 3 and 4 June[2] –will be addressed by UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who 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 groups are concerned that its introduction could allow developers to push through projects that would have devastating impacts on irreplaceable habitats and our wildlife.

The European Union is considering similar legislation as part of its ‘No Net Loss Initative’, part of the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 which could put sites that are rich in biodiversity under pressure from project developers. In June, the European Commission will start a public consultation process on this issue.

New research published today identifies a number of cases around the UK where offsetting is already being proposed by developers. These stories and accompanying photographs will be showcased in a public meeting in London tonight organised by environment groups from around the world.[3]

Xavier Sol, Counter Balance director said: “Offsetting reduces nature to a financial asset which can be destroyed in one place and rebuilt in another. This is financial hocus pocus for investors but does very little to protect nature. Natural habitats can be extremely complex and take decades or longer to be recreated." “European public banks such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are already considering offsetting schemes to push forward infrastructure projects with serious environmental impact. New EU legislation on offsetting risks speeding up that process.”

Hanna Mowat from FERN 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 editors

  1. Campaigners and biodiversity experts will gather this evening (Monday 2 June) in a venue in Regent’s Park, London for an open meeting to discuss the problems with offsetting schemes
  2. Photos of offsets from around the world will be exhibited at the venue
  3. Last year 140 civil society organisations signed the no to biodiversity offsetting declaration http://no-biodiversity-offsets...

[1]See for list of groups
[3]Case Studies are available in the biodiversity offsetting research report published by Friends of the Earth UK and FERN: