Biodiversity net gain: a new duty?

Significant attention is on the development of the government’s 25-year environment plan, which aims to achieve the overall ambition to be “the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited”. 

From the content of the plan (setting objectives for 2040), to interfaces with other parts of government, via governance and reporting, there is much to do to bring together a coherent set of actions with performance milestones that will lead to a markedly better environment.

Given the importance of biodiversity, which in many areas is declining, it’s crucial that action is taken to halt biodiversity loss and embed policies that will lead to restoration and enhancement.

In the infrastructure sector, there are positive initiatives helping to address this decline. For example, the government’s road investment strategy states that, by 2020, Highways England must deliver no net loss of biodiversity, and that by 2040 it must deliver a net gain. East West Rail has a commitment to “delivering a measurable net biodiversity gain and positively contributing to the conservation of nature in the region”. Some construction and housebuilding companies also now have similar commitments.

As the application of biodiversity net gain gets translated into practical application, supported by initiatives such as the joint principles developed by IEMA, CIRIA and CIEEM – Biodiversity Net Gain: Good Practice Principles for Development – the question is whether a duty should be placed on developers to require this in the future. Also, as natural capital accounting tools become better established, should developers be required to deliver wider net-positive natural capital too? 

Nick Blyth policy and engagement officer at IEMA @nblythiema

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