Biodiversity offsets: What did the UK pilot scheme achieve?

Voluntary biodiversity offsetting was piloted in six English areas by local planning authorities and stakeholder organisations. IEEP and Collingwood Environmental Planning, together with David Tyldesley, assessed the UK government programme from 2012 to 2014. The study assessed whether voluntary biodiversity offsetting helped use resources more effectively to deliver greater benefits for biodiversity, and whether it streamlined the process of agreeing compensation for biodiversity loss in a cost effective way.

Stakeholders that used the standard metric to calculate biodiversity losses and gains felt that it provided a quantified, consistent, transparent and relatively simple process that accounted for a wider range of biodiversity impacts than current practice, but some thought it might be over-estimating the importance of lower value habitats. Early engagement was found to be key, but in all but one of the pilot areas, a lack of resources hindered a proactive approach to promoting the metric and biodiversity offsetting. All but one of the pilots felt that within a voluntary system existing national policy was not sufficient to support biodiversity offsetting, particularly for lower value habitats. In two years, no legal agreements were concluded but up to 16 offsets were being planned.

In a related study, IEEP and the Leibnitz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development investigated the effects of offsetting and habitat banking market size and liquidity on the costs of compensating for biodiversity damage in Germany, because offsetting has been a mandatory requirement there for over 20 years.

Reports and annexes are available here.