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

Declaration on Biodiversity Offsetting

This declaration has been signed by over 150 organisations from across the world.  You can read the full list of signatories here.

The statement is open for signatures from organizations, groups, networks, associations, and collectives – if you would like to sign up just email nobiodiversityoffsets@gmail.com.

You can read more at the ‘No to Biodiversity Offsets‘ website.

Declaration on Biodiversity Offsetting

Around the world, ecosystems and the communities that depend on them are harmed by large infrastructure projects, extractive industries and new financial markets.[1] To facilitate these activities, public and private entities are promoting new schemes to allow their environmental impacts to be ‘offset’. This could lead to an increase in damage, but even more concerning is that it commodifies nature. This is why the undersigned organisations are warning the world of the negative impacts of this false solution and saying “No to Biodiversity Offsetting.”

Biodiversity offsetting is the promise to replace nature destroyed and lost in one place with nature somewhere else. As with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), biodiversity offsetting relies on ‘experts’ to create dubious calculations that claim to make one piece of the earth equal to another. It pretends you can trade places.

Who really benefits?

The introduction of biodiversity offsetting allows, or even encourages, environmental destruction with the promise that the habitat can be recreated elsewhere. This is beneficial to the companies doing the damage, since they can present themselves as a company that invests in environmental protection, thereby green-washing its products and services.

It also creates new business opportunities for intermediaries: conservation consultants to calculate what is lost, bankers to turn them into credits, traders to barter and speculate on them in new specialised markets and investors who want to profit from so called ‘natural capital’. “Natural capital” is an artificial concept based on questionable economic assumptions rather than ecological values that permits the commodification of nature.

All of this is happening with the strong involvement of state governments who are creating public policies to ensure that property rights over elements of nature such as carbon or biodiversity can be transferred to corporations and banks.

Biodiversity offsetting won’t prevent biodiversity loss

Nature is unique and complex. It is impossible to fully measure biodiversity, so suggestions that equivalent natural areas can be found is a fallacy. Some ecosystems take hundreds, even thousands of years to reach their current state – yet biodiversity offsetting pretends that a replacement can be found. Extensive research shows this is impossible.[2]

Biodiversity offsetting will harm communities

Biodiversity offsetting means environmental protection becomes a mere by-product of a commercial project, marginalising communities and threatening their right to life. Nature has an important social, spiritual and sustenance role for local communities, who define their territories through a balanced and historical relationship with land and nature. These values cannot be measured, priced nor offset any more than communities can simply move and live elsewhere.[3]

Biodiversity offsetting attempts to separate people from the environment in which they live, where their culture is rooted, where their economic activities have been traditionally taking place.

Biodiversity offsetting could increase biodiversity loss

Past cases of biodiversity offsetting shows how it opens up natural resources to further exploitation, and undermines communities’ rights to be able to manage and protect the natural commons. Examples include:

The new Forest Code in Brazil which allows land-owners to destroy forests if they buy ‘certificates of environmental reserves’ which are issued by the state and traded on BVRio, the ‘green stock market’ recently established by the government of Brazil.
The planned EU legislation on biodiversity offsetting (the so called “No Net Loss Initiative”) which could undermine existing environmental directives.

Public finance institutions such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank private sector arm) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are making biodiversity offsetting part of their standards and practices, permitting increased levels of offsetting to ‘compensate’ for the permanent environmental damage caused by the projects that they finance.

Destructive large infrastructure and extraction projects cannot be offset. Once an ecosystem is destroyed, it cannot be recreated elsewhere. In many places where biodiversity offsetting has been allowed, it has weakened existing laws to prevent destruction. If trading occurs (as it does with carbon offsetting), it paves the way for speculation by financial actors and private companies, threatening nature and the rights of communities dependent on it.

After seven years of carbon offsetting that has failed to reduce carbon emissions,[4] biodiversity offsetting should not be used to allow destruction that would have been illegal or contrary to local and national policy under environmental legislation or investment standards.

For these reasons, we reject any attempts to include biodiversity offsetting in any legislation, standards or public policies aimed at the creation of new markets with nature or ‘natural capital’ accounting.

Annex: some examples of Offsetting policies and projects

1. The UK government is planning to introduce biodiversity offsetting (the consultation is open until 7 November 2013). Initial offset cases show that the promise to ‘offset biodiversity’ is undermining planning laws that prevent destruction. Biodiversity offset providers are successfully interfering in the legislative process, undermining the democratic decision-making process and weakening the voice of communities.[5]

2. Notre Dame des Landes, France: a proposed airport that has been in pipeline for the past 40 years, to be built on over 1000 hectares (ha) of wetland, where farmers have been maintaining a traditional landscape and maintaining biodiversity. Offsetting was required by French biodiversity and water laws. ‘Biotope’ engineered a new methodology based on ‘functions’ rather than ‘hectares’, proposing that Vinci, the airport developer, offset only 600 ha. Local resistance against offsetting has so far prevented the project and challenged the proposed offsetting scheme. The European Commission is now intervening.

3. EU Biodiversity strategy 2020 – the EU is considering the possibility of legislation on biodiversity offsetting, which could include a “habitat bank” to permit offsetting species and habitats across EU borders. The aim is for no net loss of biodiversity, an important difference to the previous aim of no loss.

4. The World Bank has financed the large Weda Bay nickel and cobalt mining project in Indonesia. It is operated by the French mining company Eramet. The company is part of the BBOP (Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program).The project has already received a guarantee from MIGA (the World Bank arm covering the guarantee of economic and political risk of investors), and is supposed to receive new financing from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JPIC), Coface and French Development Agency (AFD) for offsetting programme. The impacts on people and territories are massive and they are opposed by Indonesian and international civil society.

Notes

[1] Mining, energy, industrial logging, monoculture plantation and transport mega-projects are leading to increased land expropriation and land-use change, including the conversion of forests into industrial-scale agriculture. At the same time, in the name of energy security, large-scale efforts are underway to increase the extraction of conventional and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands and shale gas.

[2] http://www.ceeweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Critical-review-of-biodiversity-offsets_for-IEEP_Final.pdf

[3] The disproportional and unjust burden of false solutions/offsettings to the most vulnerable communities, that are not responsible for environmental destruction, and whose livelihoods are directly dependent on a healthy environment and on the possibility to interact with it.

[4] http://scrap-the-euets.makenoise.org/english/

[5] http://saveourwoods.co.uk/articles/nppf/biodiversity-offsetting-permits-previously-rejected-housing-development/

[6] See briefing by Les Amis de la Terre here: http://www.amisdelaterre.org/Mine-de-nickel-Weda-Bay-d-Eramet.html

Fighting the Great Nature Sale

On 21st November governments, international institutions, corporate actors and mainstream civil society groups will meet in Edinburgh for the first ‘World Forum on Natural Capital’.

Following the launch of the Natural Capital Declaration, promoted by major global banks at the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio in June 2012, business and governments are working to assign monetary value to services provided by nature’s different services, under the banner of the so-called “Green Economy”.

In an era dominated by global finance where trading money, risk and derivative products is more profitable than trading actual goods and services such a move comes as no surprise. Global finance requires the constant development of new assets: their next target, nature itself. This is what we call the financialisation of nature.

The first large scale implementation of this idea is the carbon market where carbon emissions are traded and as if it were financial commodities. Despite their profitability carbon markets have failed to addressing the climate crisis, succeeding only in generating huge profits to financial and corporate actors.

In order to enable the trading of nature and natural services an enormous amount of work is being done by consultancies, banks and governments to define what nature’s services are and how they can be commodified. That’s why the ‘World Forum on Natural Capital’ aims at giving a monetary value to all ecosystem services. The next step for banks and governments is to facilitate the trade in these services, as has already been done with carbon. This market is expected to be worth many trillions of dollars per year.

We believe nature’s value is priceless and has to be protected. That’s why we reject this new wave of commodification and financialisation of nature promoted by governments, corporations and banks. Putting a price on nature will not save it from pollution and destruction. To the contrary, these new commodities will only guarantee extra profits to the few, while leaving the environment at risk in the long-run.

Ecosystems and their services are common resources and must not be enclosed for private gain. Compliance with existing environmental regulation would be replaced with financial compensation. Instead of saying that a polluter does not have the right to pollute our common resources, markets sell that right. Once a price is put on nature, all of our common resources can be bought, sold and packaged. Worse, as we have seen in the recent financial crisis, a market can be manipulated, repackaged and resold as financial derivatives, bonds and other products.

Ultimately, accounting natural capital will result in increased exploitation of natural resources instead of protecting them. Join us in Edinburgh to stand up to global finance and share ideas to protect the commons for the benefit of all.

Berber Verpoest, Counter Balance
Antonio Tricarico, Re:Common