Updated dossier on the New Economy of Nature

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Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung have just updated their dossier New Economy of Nature!

‘Offsetting is better than doing nothing at all.’

‘Prices must tell the ecological truth.’

These and other popular arguments for an economic valuation of nature are critiqually questioned in our dossier New Economy of Nature. Ten contrasting points illustrate where these common assumptions fall short or where they are just false.

Also NEW in our dossier:

Our dossier illustrates what the concept of the ‘New Economy of Nature’ stands for and why this approach has been of increased interest to economy and politics. We name key actors and institutions that are shaping the discourse and highlight contradictions as well as disputable assumptions.

Event invitation: New Frontiers, New Tricks

Protest against proposed programs like REDD+

Saturday 8 April 2017, 10.30am – 4pm

Friends of the Earth, 139 Clapham Road, Stockwell, London, SW9 0HP

From Madagascar to Mongolia, from Macedonia to middle England, mining and other sectors are using new conservation measures such as ‘biodiversity offsetting’ to put a gloss of sustainability on their damaging activities.

At this event, activists, researchers, and NGOs and will be sharing testimony from communities across several continents, discussing these new threats to people and nature, and begin learning how to challenge them together. Continue reading

EU is pushing biodiversity offsetting through the backdoor

By Xavier Sol, originally published on Counter Balance

Last year the European Commission was forced to ditch its plans to develop legislation on biodiversity offsetting after EU citizens overwhelmingly rejected such plans in a public consultation. Nevertheless this set back doesn’t seem to withhold the European Commission from pushing biodiversity offsetting forward in practice. Together with the European Investment Bank (EIB) it is running the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), which aims to invest up to €125 million in natural capital projects.

The push for biodiversity offsetting is not only at odds with the EU’s democratic policy process, the benefits for the environment remain questionable. Because of its focus on financial return critics fear the NCFF may rather drive the financialisation of nature than the protection of nature.

The NCFF will operate a total budget of €100-125 million with an additional €10 million for technical assistance. The aim is to leverage private investments for 10-12 pilot schemes from 2015 to 2017.

According to the European Commission the NCFF has to „demonstrate that natural capital projects can generate revenues or save costs, whilst delivering on biodiversity and climate adaptation objectives. The NCFF is to establish a pipeline of replicable, bankable operations that will serve as a “proof of concept” and that will demonstrate to potential investors the attractiveness of such operations“.

The European Commission’s conviction that financial gain and biodiversity gain can be easily combined is not shared by everyone. During the consultation round on biodiversity offsetting last year, over 9000 people and 65 organisations have signed a letter urging the Commission not to pursue policy related to biodiversity offsetting. They fear it would “harm nature and people, and give power to those who destroy nature for private profit.”

Indeed, the NCFF’s budget consists of €50 million from the Commission’s Life programme, money that used to come in grants for environmental projects. Increasingly, proponents of financial instruments argue that flexible financing is necessary in order to secure ample funding to address the climate and environmental crises. However, it also means a shift in management from environmentally focused institutions to institutions with a financial focus driven by profit. As a result success becomes measured by profitability rather than the ability to protect nature.

Another problem is the lack of transparency. Part of the NCFF funding will be channelled through intermediary funds managed by third parties. Using financial intermediaries makes it impossible to fully measure the project’s impact. The EIB’s responsibility to track all the investments is outsourced to the intermediary who often lacks the capacity, know-how and focus to lead on this process. This has an inevitable impact on the quality of the projects.

Among some environmental organisations doubts about the NCFF as an instrument are rising even before the first projects have been approved. Its focus on promoting the valuation of nature and developing markets for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting makes it a symbol of the financialisation of nature.

New report: rejecting Financialization of Nature

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Friends of the Earth International are presenting a new publication from their Forests and Biodiversity Program.

The brochure, “rejecting Financialization of Nature”, explains in a simple way how financialzation works using examples from different countries.  It puts forward a strong position on financialization to raise awareness in the public and should be a useful tool for those lobbying at international and national levels.

Spanish and French language editions are available from Friends of the Earth International directly.

Friends of the Earth International is also publishing materials to support its work about climate finance at the national and international levels, at the UN and UNFCCC, backing Indigenous Peoples and local communities rights to end deforestation and forest degradation.

Drawing together these pieces of work, Isaac Rojas has written an article for The Ecologist magazine: “Local communities, not global financiers, are the best forest managers”.

A response from the European Commission

For those of you who signed the letter to the European Commission, you may be interested to see the response we got.  We are pleased to have gotten a response, if the detail is very much lacking.

Hannah Mowat, FERN

Dear Ms Mowat,

Commissioner Potočnik has asked me to answer your letter of 17 October 2014. The Commission’s on-line consultation on a future EU no net loss initiative served to collect stakeholders’ views on a broad range of issues related to no net loss of biodiversity. We are pleased to see that so many used this opportunity to express their opinions. We also welcome Fern’s and associated organisations’ contribution on this important topic. We will evaluate all the contributions we have received and take them into account when deciding on the further actions to be taken at EU level to achieve no net loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Yours Sincerely,

François Wakenhut, Head of Unit

EUROPEAN COMMISSION
DIRECTORATE-GENERAL ENVIRONMENT
Directorate B – Natural Capital
ENV.B.2 – Biodiversity

New paper: “the dangers of commodifying our natural world”

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Friends of the Earth Europe has produced a new paper stating that the group believes “nature is not for sale”.

Proposed EU policy would introduce new systems of biodiversity offsetting as a theoretical way to secure “no net loss” of biodiversity.  Friends of the Earth Europe’s paper summarises and explains the problems with this approach.

You can read the report on the Friends of the Earth Europe website.

Making Dreams Come True – New Film

Biodiversity offsetting, making dreams come true from Global Motion on Vimeo.

Biodiversity offsetting makes dreams come true. It is the license that can make bad developers’ dreams a reality.

Across the world offsets already justify the destruction of irreplaceable ecosystems to make way for mining projects, motorways, pipelines …

Europe is the new frontier for biodiversity offsets.The European Union is considering new legislation that permits biodiversity offsets.

Tell the EU that nature is not for sale by responding to their public consultation before 17th October 2014 and sign our letter to the EU.

Background information

Last year more then 140 organisations signed on to the ‘No to biodiversity offsets declaration’. Read all about it here

‘Biodiversity offsetting, making dreams come true’ is a film by the following organisations:

  • Counter Balance
  • Fern
  • Re:Common
  • Carbon Trade Watch
  • WDM

2nd Forum – Report from London

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A brilliant array of speakers joined the 2nd Forum on Natural Commons in London last week:

You can read what they had to say and records from the evening on the Fern website here.  Photos of the event are also available at this link.

A big thank you to everyone who participated and made it such an engaging evening.

Invitation: 2nd Forum on Natural Commons

Where and when drawing animals

Invitation

The UK government appears hell-bent on pushing through biodiversity offsetting – which will allow wildlife and habitats to be destroyed across the country, so long as it is ‘replaced’ elsewhere.

The policy is inherently flawed: biodiversity offsetting ignores the difficulties in recreating ecosystems, it overlooks the uniqueness of different habitats, and it disregards the importance of nature for local communities. Once a harmful development project goes ahead, communities lose access to it forever.

We believe it’s time to make space for nature and communities. At the 2nd Forum on Natural Commons, we bring together NGOs, academics, activists and the general public to discuss nature as a common good that benefits us all. Join us!

Why now?

This June, the UK Government is teaming up with an international collaboration of companies, financial institutions, government agencies and civil society organisations called the the Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme (BBOP), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL London Zoo) to host the ‘first global conference’ on biodiversity offsetting, “To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond”.

The London-based summit involves more than 300 people from mining, finance, corporate, NGO, international agency and research sectors. It signals a real intensification of global policy efforts, championed by the UK government, to roll out biodiversity offsetting around the world.

What’s the problem?

We are concerned that the knowledge created and shared at this Summit will serve to reinforce what we believe is a dangerous and harmful policy, as it is currently being envisioned.

What are we doing about it?

We believe it’s time to make space for nature and communities. At the 2nd Forum on Natural Commons, happening in Regent’s Park, opposite the official summit, we bring together NGOs, academics, activists, journalists and the general public to challenge biodiversity offsetting as a flawed policy and will discuss how to protect nature as a common good that benefits us all. Join us!

Agenda

Panel 1: New directions in conservation: a closer look at ‘value’ and offsetting.

fon2A new conservation paradigm is emerging among policy makers; that in order to properly protect nature, it must be given a ‘proper value’. This usually means setting up ways to measure ecosystems and biodiversity in terms of pounds, dollars and euros so that nature, industry and economic growth can all appear on the same balance sheet.

This potent narrative underwrites much of the political energy that is currently directed at developing systems of ‘biodiversity offsetting’ around the world. Central to the concept is the idea that the ‘value’ of any particular item of biodiversity can be assessed against others and units of biodiversity value can be added up, divided and shifted around like figures in a spreadsheet. This is at the heart of the thinking behind ‘no net loss’ initiatives. It is an appealing (but fundamentally flawed) idea because it divorces the ‘value’ of biodiversity from the complex ecological, social and geographic relations that allow that biodiversity to exist.

Where did this new narrative for ‘value’ come from and how is it being engineered? Why is it treated as self-evident by policy makers and what does it conceal? This panel explores the new directions in global conservation policy, the difficult question of ‘value’ and its emergent role in environmental governance.

Facilitator: Sian Sullivan

Confirmed speakers:
o    Jutta Kill, World Rainforest Movement
o    John O’Neill, Manchester University
o    Morgan Robertson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

o    Mike Hannis, Bath Spa university and The Land magazine

Panel 2: Biodiversity offsetting and community rightsdrawing bulldozer

Access to nature is important for people’s well-being, health, prosperity and happiness. Whether shale gas, a new road or a large housing development, new development projects have an undoubtable environmental and social impact.

Biodiversity offsetting propagates the myth that people and nature are completely separate, by promising to neutralize the environmental impact of development by protecting or improving biodiversity elsewhere. This may lead to an increase in developments that infringe on community rights and access to nature. Land set aside for conservation within an offsetting scheme could lead to further land grabbing, taking land out of the hands of communities in order to serve corporate ‘environmental’ interests.

Nature is not something we can have elsewhere: it is not separate from people – this is the myth that offsetting propagates. We need to learn to live sustainably, meaning we need to challenge unneeded development, and make sure that development that does happen is as sustainable as possible.

What are the impacts of biodiversity offsetting likely to be on the ground, and what will it mean for communities struggling against development proposals? Owen Paterson MP said that offsets should be an hour’s drive away – but how far is too far? And is this really the point? This panel explores the implications of biodiversity offsetting on people, and how community rights are articulated in the global North and South.

Facilitator: Fred Pearce, Journalist

Confirmed speakers:
o    Ian Scoones, co-director STEPS Centre
o    Peter J Howard, Member of Landscape Research group
o    Kathryn McWhirter, resident of Balcombe and Shale Gas campaigner
o    Sylvia Kay, Transnational Institute
o    Sarah Walters, woodland manager, Alvecote Wood

There will be a small cocktail after the event until 20h30

A photo exhibition from 13 different photographers can be visited in between and after the panel discussions. It aims to explore how natural areas cannot be offset and showcases just a few examples of brave community resistance from Romania, Brazil, Ecuador, France and the UK.

You can already visit the on-line version of the exhibition from here