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Biodiversity offsetting at all costs?

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Despite its own consultation on how to halt biodiversity loss showing little support for biodiversity offsetting in the EU, the European Commission has released a large and detailed study on how to implement biodiversity offsetting in the EU. Biodiversity offsetting is based on the principle that biodiversity destroyed in one place can be measured and replaced in another. However, according to the findings of an EU study, once biodiversity is lost, it may be lost forever: “We do not have the experience to know how durable offsets are over the long term, and how well each of the mechanisms performs against its stated aims over the long term... the long term effectiveness of mechanisms available to secure long term conservation benefits cannot yet be fully evaluated.”

An EU consultation on how best to halt biodiversity loss came to an end on 17 October 2014 and showed that the majority of respondents reject the setting up of an EU legal framework for biodiversity offsetting. The consultation did however reveal overwhelming support for the strengthening of existing legislation and policies, such as the Birds and Habitats Directive, suggesting that this would be the best way for the EU to ensure no further biodiversity loss. Since the EU commissioned such a detailed report on how to implement biodiversity offsetting before hearing the outcome of the consultation, there are now questions on how genuine the consultation exercise was.

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