Biodiversity offsets could destroy precious Balkan ecosystems and worsen climate change

Offset measures are the latest trend for damage control in biodiversity hotspots. But, are we really using them as a last resort and is it possible offsets will only bring more changes in climate!?

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Mankind has a history of making catastrophic mistakes and even more catastrophic solutions to repair them. Biodiversity offsets could just be one of the worst solutions to a very serious problem taken too lightly.

“Biodiversity offsetting is a system used predominantly by planning authorities and developers to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts associated with economic development, through the planning process. “- Wikipedia

The first time I learned about offset measures was just last week at a public debate for major construction projects inside Galicica National Park near the city of Ohrid in Macedonia. A biodiversity hotspot teaming with rare and endemic species, Galicica is also one of 15 Transboundary Biosphere Reserves in the World.

Now the Macedonian government is planning to downgrade the protection and build inside the national park. To compensate for the loss of 604 hectares of forests and precious ecosystems they will use offset measures, or compensate the loss of 84 hectares of endemic Macedonian oak forest with Macedonian oak forest at a random location elsewhere in the country.

Not the same species will live at that different location and yes, not all ecosystems are identical, multiple research confirms that although there are similar ecosystems that share fundamental characteristics- every ecosystem is unique. But, one even more important thing offset measures do not take into account is climate change.

“At the global level, human activities have caused and will continue to cause a loss in biodiversity…Changes in climate exert additional pressure and have already begun to affect biodiversity” – IPCC paper on Climate Change and biodiversity

Our climate is changing rapidly and temperature changes will cause some species to move, while other might disappear all together. Which is exactly why we cannot “compensate” one forest with another- there might not be a forest there tomorrow!

What we also might be overlooking or choosing to overlook is the effects these unique ecosystems have on the climate, by storing carbon and controlling the circulation of water.

“Healthy, well-functioning ecosystems enhance natural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change and reduce the vulnerability of people.” – unep.org

2015 was the hottest year ever, but this hot summer at the Bonn Climate Change Negotiations we saw politicians looking cooler than ever barely moving the negotiations forward.

The COP21 in Paris should only be the beginning of the creation of a very complex alive and kicking ecosystem that has enough respect for all other ecosystems on this Planet, and when you respect someone you don’t just replace (compensate) him for something or someone else in the prospect for profit. See the problem there!?

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