Protecting biodiversity is everybody's business - here is how we do it

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Today at UN Biodiversity Conference Rio Convention Pavilion at 1pm, the Cross-Sector Biodiversity Initiative (CSBI) is giving a presentation on Mitigation hierarchy: the most powerful tool in promoting widespread biodiversity management across mining and oil and gas.

The UN Biodiversity Conference (The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties) is being held in Egypt. This is where governments from around the world come together to agree on how they can halt the global loss of biodiversity.

Government parties have expressed support for the CBD’s recommendation to ‘Mainstream biodiversity in the energy, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and health sectors’. 

It is proposed that seeking to make biodiversity an everyday part of business will become part of the UN body’s new strategy for biodiversity, starting in 2020. This ‘mainstreaming’ is a new approach for the CBD and means they will look beyond their usual circle of environment ministers, academics and NGOs and reach out to industry.

In order to play their role in halting this loss of biodiversity, whilst continuing to operate and provide economic opportunities for host countries, extractive projects must manage biodiversity in a manner which is respectful of the habitats in which they operate. The mitigation hierarchy is their most powerful tool in managing and even enhancing biodiversity around their operations.

This is why the Cross-Sector Biodiversity Initiative (a partnership of oil & gas, mining and banks) is holding an event this afternoon alongside the negotiations at the Rio Convention Pavilion, to help raise awareness of these practices and tools with the CBD government parties and their stakeholders.

Since 2014 The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), IPIECA and their members, the Equator Principles Association (EPA) Banks and Multi-lateral funders such as the IFC and EBRD have shown leadership in this area individually and through their partnership in CSBI.

CSBI has developed tools and guidance around these management practices that governments can draw on when encouraging mainstreaming of good practice across the sector, including: a guide on implementing the Mitigation Hierarchy, a guide on conducting Biodiversity Baselines and a Timeline Tool which supports project finance and planning.

The mitigation hierarchy is designed to ensure that biodiversity is overall unaffected by industrial presence: that biodiversity is either restored where it was impacted, or similar biodiversity has been enhanced elsewhere. It means applying the following principles avoid, mitigate, restore and offset - in that order -  first avoiding impacts wherever possible and otherwise mitigating them, restoring habitats after land has been mined or compensating for or offsetting impacts to important biodiversity that couldn’t be avoided.

Today between 1 and 4pm at the Rio Convention Pavilion, will be a session dedicated to the Mitigation Hierarchy, hosted by CSBI’s chair, Frazer Lanier and Veronica Lo from the EPA, with the support of Jonathan Ekstrom of the Biodiversity Consultancy. The session brings together government ministry representatives and high-level representatives from the finance and NGO sector to explore each of the stages of the mitigation hierarchy as they are laid out in CSBI’s Guidance

Today’s first panel will discuss what avoidance is, why it is important, and how companies avoid biodiversity impacts using best practice tools and guidance. They are joined by Bala Pisupati, Chairperson of FLEDGE, Yajna Nath Dahal, Chief Environment and Biodiversity Division, Ministry of Environment of Nepal and Rose Mwebaza, Chief Natural Resources Officer of The African Development Bank.

Next up, Kiruben Naicker Science and Policy Interface/Biodiversity Monitoring Specialist – Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa and Kat Bruce, CEO of Nature Metrics will join CSBI in a second panel discussing what it means to adequately mitigate biodiversity impacts. Successful examples of mitigation at the corporate level and what key performance indicators (KPIs) companies use to demonstrate minimization and restoration. 

And finally, Jon Eskrom and Frazer will be joined by panelists Francis Ogwal from the National Environment Management Agenda of Uganda to explore offset policies around the world, what works and what doesn’t, the challenges and high price of offsetting as well as the case for voluntary offsets and payments for ecosystem services to make conservation of ecosystems profitable and self-perpetuating.

To achieve long-lasting and large scale impacts good governance and collaboration is needed. CSBI and its members are ready to work with the CBD’s parties to scale up their impact through collaboration with governments.

A good example of how the Mitigation Hierarchy is applied in collaboration with communities and governments is Rio Tinto’s mine in Madagascar: located in a biodiversity hotspot on the South-Eastern coast of Madagascar. QIT Madagascar Minerals is reducing overall impact on biodiversity values by implementing the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ of avoidance, mitigation, restoration and offsetting.

The concurrent rehabilitation program includes commitments to restoration and afforestation in order to address impacts to biodiversity but recognizing the need for timber and fuelwood as– this will help avoid further loss in nearby indigenous forests. These timber plantations will ultimately be handed over to local communities for sustainable harvesting as agreed with them, authorities and conservation entities – which is essential to ensure wider-scale and longer-term impact. Furthermore, the avoidance and offsetting areas were developed as conservation zones and later proclaimed as protected areas by the government of Madagascar which supports the sustainable protection of this important habitat.

The CBD are seeking to drive a shared, global vision for biodiversity, including ensuring all businesses take their biodiversity impacts seriously. Promoting the use of the Mitigation Hierarchy is a first step in seeking more widespread consideration for biodiversity across extractive and other industries.

We hope this momentum will be carried through other inter-governmental networks such as (UNFCCC, the SDGs, FAO and others) international and national finance. Ultimately we hope that this momentum translates into national level commitments to support the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy and forms the basis for collaboration across sectors.

Hafren Williams is a senior programme officer at ICMM