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African CSOs opposed to biodiversity offsets

The African Alliance for Rangeland Management and Development Wednesday joins the global campaigns to oppose plans by the UK government to create biodiversity offsetting.


Biodiversity offsetting is the promise to replace nature destroyed and lost in one place with nature somewhere else. As with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), biodiversity offsetting relies on ‘experts’ to create dubious calculations that claim to make one piece of the earth equal to another. It pretends you can trade places.
“We must not be oblivious of the pressures ecosystems and the communities that depend on them continue to come under by mining, large infrastructure projects around the world,” said Henry Neondo, Coordinator, African Alliance for Rangeland Management and Development.
According to Mr Neondo, to facilitate these activities, public and private entities are promoting new schemes to allow their environmental impacts to be ‘offset’.
The introduction of biodiversity offsetting allows, or even encourages, environmental destruction with the promise that the habitat can be recreated elsewhere. This is beneficial to the companies doing the damage, since they can present themselves as a company that invests in environmental protection, thereby green-washing its products and services.
It also creates new business opportunities for intermediaries: conservation consultants to calculate what is lost, bankers to turn them into credits, traders to barter and speculate on them in new specialised markets and investors who want to profit from so called ‘natural capital’. “Natural capital” is an artificial concept based on questionable economic assumptions rather than ecological values that permits the commodification of nature.
However, Neondo said such plans could lead to an increase in damage, but even more concerning is that it commodifies nature.
Neondo lauded efforts by civil society groups that have joined the ‘No to Biodiversity offsetting’ campaigns. The campaign rightly warns the world of the negative impacts of this false solution. According to the ‘No to Biodiversity Offsetting’ campaign drivers, nature is unique and complex. It is impossible to fully measure biodiversity, so suggestions that equivalent natural areas can be found is a fallacy. Some ecosystems take hundreds, even thousands of years to reach their current state – yet biodiversity offsetting pretends that a replacement can be found. Extensive research shows this is impossible. Biodiversity offsetting means environmental protection becomes a mere by-product of a commercial project, marginalising communities and threatening their right to life. Nature has an important social, spiritual and sustenance role for local communities, who define their territories through a balanced and historical relationship with land and nature.  
These values cannot be measured, priced nor offset any more than communities can simply move and live elsewhere.  The civil society groups include those from the UK, South America, and Africa.

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