AUTHORS: Leonardo Mazza-Julia Schiller
The eco-account schemes help overcome a range of practical barriers to compensating residual impacts arising from developments (as required under the German Impact Mitigation Regulation). In particular, the more recent eco-account scheme under the nature conservation legislation attempts to overcome potential risks of offsetting, such as those related to additionality, in particular by excluding ordinary maintenance measures and measures that have been implemented to meet other legal obligations from those eligible for registration in the eco-account registry.
Other issues that remain problematic, such as insufficient long-term monitoring of implemented compensation measures or missed opportunities for strictly adhering to the mitigation hierarchy, are not specific to the eco-account tool. The publicly available compensation registries that were introduced alongside the eco-account tool have the potential to improve long-term monitoring, provided public authorities recognise the need to invest more resources into such activities in order to ensure that losses are effectively compensated. In addition, it is the responsibility of public authorities to require developers to demonstrate that they have respected the mitigation hierarchy. This is particularly important for the credibility of the eco-account schemes since they may also have the adverse effect of creating a market on which developers may seek to meet their obligations to offset residual impacts at the lowest possible cost, potentially lower than investing into up-front impact avoidance and mitigation.