Implementing Biodiversity Offsets – Challenges and Opportunities: Lessons Learned from the French Experiences
When development projects generate impacts on biodiversity that could not be sufficiently avoided or reduced, offsets must be designed and implemented to effectively and fully compensate for the residual loss of biodiversity. International best practice indicates that biodiversity offsets must achieve no net loss (NNL) of biodiversity, or preferably a net gain. In 2012, the French government published guidance on implementing the mitigation hierarchy, with NNL as an implicit goal. The French NNL policy was established through an integrative approach to various thematic regulations covering protected species and certain types of habitats such as wetlands, forests, and vegetation. In 2016, a new law was passed that made explicit the NNL requirement, introduced aggregated and anticipated offset implementation by third-parties (“banking”), and clarified other dimensions of mitigation and offsetting. Habitat-banking pilots have been developed, whereby offset sites are identified and managed by private or public entities.