Biodiversity Offsets. What is it? Can Mozambique benefit from this tool?

According to the World Bank, Mozambique is well positioned to take advantage of new opportunities for biodiversity protection and new revenue streams for nature conservation that can come from the implementation of biodiversity offsets.

In October 2016 was published the Biodiversity Offsets Roadmap for Mozambique (“A National Biodiversity Offset System: A Road Map for Mozambique“). This document, produced with the support of several international and national institutions, aims to put this tool in the Mozambican national development agenda.

But what are the biodiversity offsets?

Biodiversity offsets can be defined as “measurable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts arising from project development after appropriate prevention and mitigation measures have been taken. The goal of biodiversity offsets is to achieve no net loss and preferably a net gain of biodiversity on the ground with respect to species composition, habi­tat structure, ecosystem function and people’s use and cultural values associated with biodiversity”. With major development projects leaving a trail of habitat and biodiversity loss and damage, increased efforts have been made to encourage project promoters to ensure that these negative impacts are mitigated. This approach, known as biodiversity “No Net Loss” requires the application of a complete set of tools known as the mitigation hierarchy. This hierarchy is constituted by (1) impact prevention, (2) minimization, (3) restoration/rehabilitation and, in some cases, as a last resort, by (4) biodiversity offset. When an offset is required, the full actual residual impact of a proj­ect on biodiversity must be calculated and then fully offset or compensated by activities to protect the same type of biodiversity as that which would be lost or degraded under the project.

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The mitigation hierarchy

Between 2009 and 2010 the global annual market for offsets grew from about $ 1.8-2.9 billion to at least $ 2.4-4 billion. Offsets are expected to generate up to $ 5.2-9.8 billion worldwide by 2020.

But is Mozambique prepared to take advantage of these new opportunities to protect nature and its sources of revenue?

The World Bank’s opinion is yes. According to this organization, there is a growing consensus in the business community, as well as at the level of key government ministries (Ministry of Land, Environment, and Rural Development and Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy) that a mandatory national framework that promotes biological offset is a valuable tool for mitigating the negative impacts of large-scale development projects, especially considering that the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations are under review. On the other hand, the network of Mozambican Protected Areas, which covers 26% of the country’s land area, is severely underfunded. It is estimated that these areas receive only about 9% of the funds needed for the basic preservation of biodiversity each year. Additional funding coming from offsets to the protected areas network would create positive impacts on biodiversity. There is still a distinct advantage in the country, which is the presence of an existing conservation trust fund that complies with international standards: BIOFUND. BIOFUND is an independent private non-profit entity with public utility status and seems to be well-positioned to receive, manage and disburse funds for offsets.

Apparently the conditions are created for Mozambique to be at the forefront of biodiversity offsets implementation. What still remains unclear is if the interconnection between international organizations, government, private sector and civil society will allow us to build consensus and move towards a more sustainable development with biodiversity No Net Loss.

For further information about biodiversity offsets in Africa check: http://combo-africa.org/

Biodinâmica provides services of Environmental Impact Assessment, Mitigation, Compensation and Offsets.

Source:

World Bank Group (2016). A National Biodiversity Offset System: A Road Map for Mozambique.