No Net Loss - Where to Next?

Over the last couple of years, no net loss policy (relating to biodiversity and ecosystems) has gathered ground at EU level.  Initiatives in this field include a European Commission Working Group, and a study entitled Policy options for an EU No Net Loss Initiative (published in 2015). The Working Group (which ran in 2012 and 2013) gathered together industry, NGOs and Member State representatives, culminating in the publication of several documents compiling the views of the different stakeholders.

So, where to next? The study mentioned above analyses a variety of policy scenarios which could be considered in an EU initiative to ensure there is no net loss of ecosystems and their services.  Further to this, the Commission launched in June a much wider, online stakeholders’ consultation with the ultimate goal of proposing such an initiative by 2015.  One of the key points raised by the study, and supported by the majority of stakeholders in the working group, is that policy in this field must apply to all sectors.  This is important as it has been recognised by the European Environment Agency that agriculture and fisheries are one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss in the EU.  In addition, other studies have noted that reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy are unlikely to have a positive impact on biodiversity. As a result, CEMBUREAU strongly believes that the scope of the no net loss initiative should apply equally to all to ensure the best possible outcome for biodiversity – as well as a legislative level playing field amongst sectors.

One other element up for consideration is whether such an initiative should cover Natura 2000 areas.  Here, the majority of stakeholders share CEMBUREAU’s view that these areas are adequately covered by existing legislation.  As such, there is no need to create additional requirements for such areas.

It is also important that any legislation in this field does not interfere with the mitigation hierarchy.  Therefore, the combination of EU and Member State legislation should ensure avoidance of impacts and, where impacts cannot be avoided, minimisation and restoration on-site (where this is ecologically viable). Only then should compensation or offsetting of (residual) impacts be considered.  Experience has shown that the best method for the cement industry to enhance biodiversity and halt the loss of ecosystem services is through in-situ rehabilitation, rather than through offsets. In fact, ecosystems are often enhanced post-rehabilitation in comparison with the site prior to the initiation of extraction activities. A clear  demonstration thereof is the cement industry’s contribution to the EU’s NNL initiative (for more information on the project please visit our case study database: Therefore, offsets should only be considered as a last resort to compensate for unavoidable residual impacts in our sector.  Also, whilst offsetting may be appropriate for some sectors where it would not be possible to restore biodiversity once restoration is complete, it is clear that more work needs to be done to ensure that any such provisions are sufficiently well designed, robust and developed on a scientific basis.

Stakeholders now have until the end of September to respond to the consultation.  As to what the 2015 Commission proposal will contain, only time will tell.

Jessica Johnson