Will we ever be able to offset our negative impacts on nature with biodiversity credits, such as offsetting greenhouse gas emissions with carbon credits? The idea may seem appealing, but it is very complex to execute.
The idea of biodiversity compensation was born in the United States in the 1970s and today more than 100 countries provide for a principle of compensation when a project harms the environment, Matthieu Wemaere told AFP. , attorney specializing in environmental law and associate researcher at the IDDRI think tank.
In France, for example, a construction company building a motorway must avoid as much as possible, reduce and compensate negative effects that it cannot avoid, also known as residual effects. At the end of May, Gabon’s Minister of Water and Forests, Lee White, advocated: “a biodiversity credit system such as carbon credits”†
Biodiversity is unique
Setting up such a system means that you settle credits from nature conservation projects and place them in a biobank, “whereby each credit represents a quantified gain in biodiversity from actions to restore, establish, improve and/or conserve biodiversity”, explains Matthieu Wemaere. The promoter of a project that is harmful to the environment can then buy “the credit to the supplier who generated the credit and placed it in the biobank”he continues.
But “unlike the carbon market, where every tonne of CO2 reduction can be replaced by another tonne of CO2, regardless of where it has been reduced, biodiversity is unique and sometimes endemic”explains AFP Matthieu Wemaere.
“If you destroy a hamster and its habitat to build a road, you don’t make up for this loss with storks”he gives as an example.
In the absence of a regulated global foreign exchange market, nothing prevents companies from buying as part of a voluntary process “units for reducing damage to biodiversity that they can then display in their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) report to claim their financial support for the conservation of biodiversity, including in developing countries”says Matthieu Wemaere.