Biodiversity offsetting involves compensating for environmental damage at one location by generating ecologically equivalent gains at another, so that there is ‘no net loss’. Biodiversity offsets are increasingly being used as a regulatory tool to balance the needs of sustainable development and environmental conservation. Unfortunately, such schemes are often prone to failure due to poor design and implementation. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act regulates impacts on matters of national environmental significance, such as nationally threatened species and world heritage areas as well as actions that involve the Commonwealth. The EPBC Act environmental offsets policy (released in October 2012) sets out the principles for effective offsetting for those protected matters regulated under national environmental law. A biodiversity offset trade involves a loss of biodiversity at an ‘impact’ site being exchanged for a gain in biodiversity at an ‘offset’ site based on an ‘offset action’. Usually, the amount of impact is estimated during the impact assessment process. But establishing the amount of biodiversity benefit generated at an offset site by the offset action is harder. That is because the gain in biodiversity at the offset is not the same thing as the amount of biodiversity the site currently supports.
More info: See Decision Point 69 for the full story on the guide. Also see ‘Balancing biodiversity offsets with restoration reality’ in Decision Point #63.