The broad application of biodiversity offsets outside regulatory regimes has been limited by the fact that there has been no accepted international standard on biodiversity offsets. Without a recognized standard, project developers, lenders and the conservation community have had no way of judging the quality of an offset project. In addition, developers were exposed to potential criticism that the offset efforts they made were inappropriate, wrong in kind, scale and location and did not accord with good practice. The risk of criticism and the lack of certainty that investment in offsets will be well regarded by stakeholders has been a significant disincentive to developers.
BBOP has addressed this problem by developing a Standard on Biodiversity Offsets, agreed by an international, multi-stakeholder group. The Standard was published in January 2012 and enables clear and transparent assessment and reporting of progress in the application of the mitigation hierarchy, including design and implementation of biodiversity offsets consistent with the BBOP Principles. Accompanying Guidance Notes offer additional detail such as an interpretation of the Standard's Indicators, key questions for assessment, and factors to consider in assessing conformance.
The work ahead
We aim to make the Standard available to as many biodiversity offset developers and policy makers as possible, and work with them to test it over the next two years. Improvement will come through field trials and feedback from users, standards experts and stakeholders. The Standard and Guidance Notes will be revised after 2016, with the exact date depending on the speed with which evidence of the need to amend specific provisions comes to light.
We would be interested to hear from any organization that has used the Standard or would be prepared to try it out at a project site. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.