By Claire West

Biodiversity offsetting can ensure that developers have to provide new wildlife sites better than any site that they were allowed to build on. This could improve the environment for wildlife as well as simplify the existing planning process.

Biodiversity offsetting has already been successful in 25 other countries including the USA, Australia and Germany. Today, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson published a consultation document on how biodiversity offsetting might work in England.

Mr Paterson said:

Offsetting is an exciting opportunity to look at how we can improve the environment as well as grow the economy.

We want to hear from developer and wildlife groups alike on how we can simplify the existing planning process while enhancing our natural environment. There is no reason why wildlife and development can’t flourish side by side.

Biodiversity offsetting was one of the priority recommendations made in the Ecosystems Market Task Force report, ‘Realising Nature’s Value’, which was published in March 2013. The report proposed a number of new actions including biodiversity offsetting as a means of tackling biodiversity loss and achieving economic growth. The Task Force, a group of business leaders chaired by Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive Officer of Kingfisher, described biodiversity offsetting as an initiative which would achieve a “net gain for nature”.

The Task Force was set up as a result of a Natural Environment White Paper commitment and reviewed the opportunities available to UK business that could help them develop green goods, services, investment vehicles and markets which value and protect the environment.

The Environment Secretary made a commitment to publish a consultation paper on biodiversity offsetting at a summit with wildlife and green groups on 9 May 2013. The consultation document is being published today alongside the government’s response to the Ecosystem Markets Task Force.

The consultation will last for nine weeks and conclude in early November. The government will then put forward proposals on how biodiversity might work in the UK.