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Sustainability 2015, 7(6), 7357-7378; doi:10.3390/su7067357

The Biodiversity Offsetting Dilemma: Between Economic Rationales and Ecological Dynamics

1
Université d'Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, UMR CNRS IRD 7263/237 IMBE, Site Agroparc, BP 61207, 84911 Avignon, Cedex 09, France
2
INRA, UR0767 Ecodeveloppement, Site Agroparc, Domaine St Paul, CS 40509, 84914 Avignon, Cedex 09, France
3
CNRS, UMR5474 LAMETA, Campus SupAgro, 2 place Pierre Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 2, France
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Géraldine Froger and Olivier Petit
Received: 27 February 2015 / Revised: 19 May 2015 / Accepted: 28 May 2015 / Published: 9 June 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services and Institutional Dynamics)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [761 KB, uploaded 9 June 2015]   |  

Abstract

Although many countries have included biodiversity offsetting (BO) requirements in their environmental regulations over the past four decades, this mechanism has recently been the object of renewed political interest. Incorporated into the mitigation hierarchy in three steps aimed at avoiding, reducing and offsetting residual impacts on biodiversity arising from development projects, BO is promoted as the way to achieve the political goal of No Net Loss of biodiversity (NNL). The recent success of BO is mainly based on its ability to provide economic incentives for biodiversity conservation. However, the diversity of BO mechanisms (direct offsets, banking mechanism and offsetting funds) and the various institutional frameworks within which they are applied generate substantial confusion about their economic and ecological implications. In this article, we first analyze the rationale for the BO approach from the welfare and ecological economics. We show that both these frameworks support the use of BO to address environmental externalities, but that they differ in how they consider the substitutability issue and levels of sustainability with regard to natural and manufactured capital, and in how they address ecological concerns. We then examine the economic and ecological performance criteria of BO from conceptual and empirical perspectives. We highlight that the three BO mechanisms involve different economic and ecological logics and inherent benefits, but also potential risks in meeting biodiversity conservation targets. We lastly investigate the ecological constraints with respect to the BO practice, and economic and organizational limitations of the BO system that may impede achievement of NNL goals. We then reveal the existence of a tension between the economic and ecological rationales in conducting BO that requires making choices about the NNL policy objectives. Finally, this article questions the place of BO in conservation policies and discusses the trade-off between political will and ecological opportunities involved in the BO approach. View Full-Text
Keywords: biodiversity conservation; biodiversity offsets; ecological compensation; economic incentives; environmental policies; human well-being; natural capital; no net loss; substitutability; weak and strong sustainability biodiversity conservation; biodiversity offsets; ecological compensation; economic incentives; environmental policies; human well-being; natural capital; no net loss; substitutability; weak and strong sustainability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Calvet, C.; Napoléone, C.; Salles, J.-M. The Biodiversity Offsetting Dilemma: Between Economic Rationales and Ecological Dynamics. Sustainability 2015, 7, 7357-7378.

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