The IUCN Review Protocol for Biodiversity Net Gain released this week aims to contribute to a growing understanding and series of tools that can assist business and governments committed to safeguarding nature.
Drawing on years of experience working with Rio Tinto and input from others engaged in on-site biodiversity management, the protocol is a step-by-step guide for project managers to measure their progress on achieving their biodiversity net gain targets.
"Overall, the IUCN Review Protocol provides external assurance to companies, governments and lenders, many of whom are increasingly committed to supporting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development goals,” says Stephen Edwards, a Senior Programme Officer with IUCN's Business and Biodiversity Programme.
In many forward-looking companies, projects are already required to apply systematic procedures to avoid, minimise, rehabilitate and offset, if possible, any residual impacts to biodiversity on site. This decision-making process, known as the mitigation hierarchy, is increasingly being adopted by companies and governments as a standard that not only enhances environmental management, but also contributes to ensuring a biodiversity net gain.
As IUCN describes it, the difference between a no net loss and biodiversity net gain target is determined by the level of ambition in applying the mitigation hierarchy. In some cases, the development project goal is to achieve a no net loss of biodiversity and in others, it is to ensure biodiversity gain significantly exceeds the loss, in which case the term ‘net gain’ may be used.
The protocol describes a robust process for reviewing a project's progress towards achieving their biodiversity net gain targets, including the components required to ensure such an assessment is rigorous yet responsive to ongoing developments throughout the project lifespan.
After working with partners in the extractives industry to apply a net positive impact approach, as well as piloting this approach with the agriculture and forestry sectors, IUCN believes that it is possible for companies to achieve a no net loss of biodiversity at the very least, and in most cases, a biodiversity net gain.