Business and Biodiversity

Biodiversity Offsets

Weighing the pros and cons of biodiversity offsets Photo: Stephen Edwards
Providing guidance on biodiversity offsets

Biodiversity offsets are a measurable way to compensate for residual impacts in development projects. While biodiversity offsets are increasingly being used by governments and companies, an IUCN study found current efforts to mitigate impacts were proving insufficient to reduce biodiversity decline. 

Biodiversity offsets and other mechanisms in the mitigation hierarchy have the potential to be a driver for enhanced conservation and the creation of new protected areas of high conservation value. However, the stakes are high with several potential pitfalls. If offsetting gains currency and is translated into corporate, financial and regulatory policy with unresolved but fundamental knowledge gaps, it could undermine established approaches to managing biodiversity risk. 

Given the general lack of agreement about the state of knowledge regarding offset implementation, and an on-going debate around fundamental issues about what conservation can gain from biodiversity offsetting, IUCN believed there was a pressing need for authoritative, balanced guidance to help conservation organizations, governments and companies reach common ground on the associated risks and opportunities,

The result: IUCN develped the first-ever global policy on biodiversity offsets, which was adopted by IUCN Members at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2016.

The development of the IUCN policy involved a robust stakeholder process. In 2014, the Director General established a working group on biodiversity offsets, which prepared a technical study paper. This paper then informed the development of the draft policy. Then, following extensive outreach and public consultation on the draft policy during 2015, further revisions were made before the policy was submitted to IUCN Members at the 2016 Congress for consideration. 

Please go to the Resources section for more information and to read other background papers on this issue. 

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