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Cost shifting and other perverse incentives in biodiversity offsetting in India

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Biodiversity offsetting aims to compensate for development‐induced biodiversity loss through commensurate conservation gains and is gaining traction among governments and businesses. However, cost shifting (i.e., diversion of offset funds to other conservation programs) and other perverse incentives can undermine the effectiveness of biodiversity offsetting. Additionality—the requirement that biodiversity offsets result in conservation outcomes that would not have been achieved otherwise—is fundamental to biodiversity offsetting. Cost shifting and violation of additionality can go hand in hand. India's national offsetting program is a case in point. Recent legislation allows the diversion of offset funds to meet the country's preexisting commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). With such diversions, no additional conservation takes place and development impacts remain uncompensated. Temporary additionality cannot be conceded in light of paucity of funds for preexisting commitments unless there is open acknowledgement that fulfillment of such commitments is contingent on offset funds. Two other examples of perverse incentives related to offsetting in India are the touting of inherently neutral offsetting outcomes as conservation gains, a tactic that breeds false complacency and results in reduced incentive for additional conservation efforts, and the clearing of native vegetation for commercial plantations in the name of compensatory afforestation, a practice that leads to biodiversity decline. The risks accompanying cost shifting and other perverse incentives, if not preempted and addressed, will result in net loss of forest cover in India. We recommend accurate baselines, transparent accounting, and open reporting of offset outcomes to ensure biodiversity offsetting achieves adequate and additional compensation for impacts of development.
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Keywords: Green India Mission; UNCBD; UNFCCC; additionality; adicionalidad; compensatory afforestation; fondos de compensación; jerarquía de mitigación; mitigation hierarchy; no net loss; offset funds; repoblación forestal compensatoria; sin pérdida neta;  , , , , , «», «»

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2018

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