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Strategies for sustainable policy design: Constructive assessment of biodiversity offsets and banking

Mann, Carsten
Ecosystem services 2015 v.16 pp. 266-274
biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, governance, issues and policy, politics
To successfully shape future policies and new forms of governance for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, careful assessment is needed at an early stage of policy development. This paper describes the concepts and first application for a constructive assessment of biodiversity offsets and banking schemes: the Challenging Futures approach. The approach builds on insights in the area of technology assessment which seek to open innovation processes to related societal concerns to bring about sustainable improvement.As its main objective, Challenging Futures endeavors to create a more inclusive discourse about biodiversity offsets and banking, that is, to make issues of their design, functions, and implications more debatable, especially for new actors such as outsiders and critics. Based on a set of future scenarios for biodiversity offsets and banking, workshop participants identified, debated, and described critical issues and challenges, some of which have been backgrounded in the course of policy developments. One basic finding from the workshop is that although the design of biodiversity offset approaches and valuation methods is predominantly framed in functional and methodological terms, it is almost always linked to more fundamental philosophies, worldviews, and different rationalities concerning how to see, use, and value nature. The design and implementation of biodiversity offset and banking schemes are thus as much a political as a technical issue, a matter of concern and judgment, fact and functionality. It therefore requires an open, anticipatory, reflexive, and contested debate to make sound, that is a broader acceptance of decisions about the design and use of new biodiversity conservation approaches before certain designs are implemented over a range of different socio-ecological and cultural contexts.This paper summarizes the issues and challenges discussed by workshop participants in relation to the future development of biodiversity offsetting. These assessment results feed back into the design and development of policy approaches. More robust and socially embedded, and hence sustainable, policy solutions are the desired result. In the course of the paper, the political and societal implications for the future development of biodiversity offset and banking approaches are discussed and the chances and limitations for using the Challenging Futures assessment approach highlighted.