Biodiversity Offsetting: Sixth report of Session 2013-14

A report has been issued by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on Biodiversity Offsetting.

The report states that biodiversity offsetting allows damage to the environment and ecosystems arising from a development to be compensated for by providing biodiversity resources elsewhere. The Government set out proposals for biodiversity offsetting in a Green Paper in September 2013, including a prospective metric for calculating biodiversity gains and losses.

The report adds that arguably offsetting is an admission of failure in that it should only arise after alternative development sites or means of mitigating the environmental loss from development have been considered. It adds that "A decision on the Government's offsetting proposals should not be made at this time. Offsetting pilots were set up in 2011 and these should be allowed to run their course and then be subjected to the independent evaluation previously promised by ministers. If that evaluation concludes that there are benefits in introducing an offsetting scheme, the Government should then bring forward revised proposals that reflect the concerns that we have raised in this Report."

The report continues by stating that if the Government nevertheless decides now to introduce offsetting, the current proposals need to be improved in several ways. The metric, which the Government estimates would take only 20 minutes to apply, is found by the report to be overly simplistic. The report states that "A proper metric needs to reflect the full complexity of habitats, including particular species and 'ecosystem networks', and recognise the special status of ancient woodlands and sites of special scientific interest. Biodiversity assessments would need to be transparent and independent to command respect from developers, local authorities, environmental groups and local people."

Date: 12/11/2013 Date of publication

Author: Environmental Audit Committee

DCP link: This item updates DCP section 4.25

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