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140 International Organizations Call for End to Biodiversity Offsetting Plans

At the opening of the World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh, Scotland yesterday, 140 organizations from all over the world released a statement to say "No" to biodiversity offsetting. The statement was launched in a counter forum on Natural Commons taking place in Edinburgh at the same time.

In a released statement, 140 international organizations called for end to biodiversity offsetting plans which would give developers and industry a 'license to trash nature."
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Biodiversity offsetting is the theory that you can destroy nature in one place, as long as you replace it elsewhere to ensure “no net biodiversity loss.” Not only has this proven unworkable, it puts pressure on community livelihoods.

“Offsetting treats nature such as forests or rivers as if it were an exchangeable item you buy in the supermarket," said Hannah Mowat from FERN, explaining why offsetting has had such poor results so far. 

"Destroying one forest or river with a promise of protecting another fails to recognize that they are part of a wider ecosystem and intrinsic to human and cultural landscapes," Mowat continued. "Destruction of complex and site specific biodiversity cannot be offset. It is time to be clear that offsetting will not tackle biodiversity loss but may impoverish communities.” 

The statement raises concern that offsetting could erode the power of environmental laws to restrict damaging activities. In the UK, offsetting is being used as an excuse to speed up planning laws and remove "green tape." The EU is also considering new laws that could question the strength of the Nature Directives. This is also the case in a number of countries in the global South, such as Brazil, where it is a license to trash nature.

“In Brazil, the government is reforming public policies to allow companies to ‘offset’ their impact rather than preventing damage in the first place," said Lúcia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil. "The Brazilian development bank, BNDES, provides grants to states to create subnational laws for carbon and biodiversity offsets. Though this is being challenged by the public attorney, these policies are causing dramatic violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the rights of communities dependent on natural resources” 

"Nature is a common good that we all share rights to and have responsibility over," said Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement and co-organizer of the Forum on Natural Commons.

"It should be managed democratically by a commons-centered approach and not by a market based approach that takes power away from the people and gives more resources to those who can pay the most," continued Dearden. "Many organizations, scientists and people have come together through this statement to expose that the motive is profit, not conservation." 

Climate justice activists currently at the climate negotiations in Warsaw are exposing that market based mechanisms such as carbon trading and forest carbon markets are proven failures and should not be extended to areas such as biodiversity. Activists and organizations are calling on governments to bring these failed approaches to an end and concentrate on ways to reduce carbon emissions and biodiversity loss at home.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.