While the idea of carbon offsets may be familiar to many, biodiversity offsetting is yet to enter the mainstream. According to Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary and the Conservative MP for North Shropshire in the UK, biodiversity offsetting is a new concept that is about offsetting the impact of new projects or business activities by creating alternative sites or offsetting projects.
Paterson says that biodiversity offsetting is a way to continue growing the economy while providing environmental benefits. As many as 25 countries have already engaged in biodiversity offsetting with success. These countries include Germany, Australia, and the United States.
For example, a developer might build on a green area and offset any biodiversity losses by creating wetlands or setting up new reed beds on another site. Giving the developer the right to work freely in the area as long as the environmental impact is compensated for means greater flexibility for businesses.
Paterson argues that biodiversity offsetting can make planning regulations and processes more certain and simpler. As long as safeguards are set up for special habitats that cannot be easily replicated, biodiversity can create excellent benefits for both businesses and the environment.