The article

We analyze the development of biodiversity offsetting governance through a research-weaving approach. Here, we combine information from a systematized review of the literature and a qualitative analysis of the institutional developments in different world regions. Through this triangulation, we synthesize and map the different developmental streams of biodiversity offsetting governance around the globe over the last four decades. We find that there is a global mainstreaming of core principles such as avoidance, no-net-loss, and a mitigation hierarchy, as well as pooling and trading of offsets for unavoidable residual damages. Furthermore, we can observe an ongoing diversification of institutional designs and actors involved. Together this constitutes an emerging regime complex of biodiversity offsetting governance that comes with both a set of shared norms and a growing institutional complexity. While this may imply institutional innovation through diversification and policy experimentation, it also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of offsetting practices.

The interviewee

Researcher Nils Droste Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and CIRCLE, Lund University

The interview

Thank you very much for accepting this invitation to have a coffee break with me, how are you doing?

I’m good it’s been a long day but i’m very happy to be here.

I’m really happy to have you back, this is the second time we’re having a coffee break, which is great. This time I want to talk with you about your paper on biodiversity of setting governance in a global perspective, could you please tell me what the paper is about?

The paper is about, it’s largely speaking about what damage to the environment we are willing to accept and how we can deal with that because humans just by inhabiting the planet we cause damage to it we plow the soil and we develop infrastructure and grow our economies and that has an impact on the environment. So it’s largely speaking about how we deal with these damages to the environment and what we are willing to accept and what we do with the residual damages, how we can offset and compensate those.

How important this is. Which ones are your key findings?

The key findings in this regard are: What we look into is the development of this particular policy instrument around the globe and we we can trace it to two different sources in Europe and the US but it has then been adapted in different regions around the globe. What we observe is that when when this instrument is taken to a different place it needs to be adjusted to the local institutional context and thereby the instrument has developed further and became more diverse in itself. So we see this kind of global spread of the core ideas of biodiversity offsetting but we also see a growing institutional diversity and what we can call that an emerging regime complex of biodiversity offsetting.

I imagine this is this was a great ambitious project with nine people in a global way. I imagine it was a very challenging. Can you tell us a little bit about this experience or your motivation? Why was it important to do this?

It is an important topic because we are facing a global mass extinction of species so we are losing biodiversity and that has implications for human development on the planet because we’re destroying our very ecological life support systems. Therefore it is important i think to understand what we can do about it. Biodiversity offsetting is a policy instrument that can help us, potentially at least, to address the loss of biodiversity because it is in its core about what damages we are willing to accept, right? That this to say we should try to minimize the effects that we have and only the damage that’s really necessary for human development and for providing societies with further benefits of development should be accepted and can then be dealt with. So it’s biodiversity offsetting well it’s in its name about the compensation in itself it comes with a broader set of ideas. Among other things about the so-called mitigation hierarchy and that works through these steps of avoidance and then minimization and then offsetting so it is an instrument that has potential and we wanted to know how how widespread it is and where it can be found in which form and what we did not find substantial evidence about the effectiveness of the instrument but given the damage that we do to the environment we need to kind of dig deeper into that because it’s one of the few instruments that that actually addresses this damage that we do to the environment and tries to address it. So I think this diversity calls for better research that takes into account the the differences in the instrument in local specific contexts and analyzes the effects or the effectiveness of those instruments, so we can better understand how we can actually effectively deal with the damages to the environment.

Thank you very much for clarifying this. I find this topic essentially important, so i want to ask you a final question. Imagine you have a policy maker in front of you. What would you say about your paper and how this tool can be actually implemented practically?

What I would say to a policy maker is this policy instrument has potential but we need to figure out how it works well. Therefore I would encourage a policy maker to take this instrument and experiment with it and see how we can adjust it to make it work well. But what we would need to do so is – I think – to to evaluate the implementation and the adaptation of the instrument while experimenting with it. That is to say we try this and then we look at how it work. And if it doesn’t work we adjust again until we get it right because it is important that we deal with the damages to the environment in an effective way right that that we stop biodiversity loss and maybe even turn around the curve of the biodiversity of us.

Hopefully! It’s definitely worth experimenting. Thank you Neil, so much, it was a pleasure to have you again on our coffee breaks and we wish you all the best and see you next time.

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