19 May 2023

Key takeaways from our biodiversity mini-conference

Dr Nick Atkinson

Chief Science Officer

Torrey Sanseverino

Research Manager

3 min
  • There was consensus among panellists on general principles for biodiversity credits, such as transparency, integrity and robustness. Core concerns, such as demonstrating additionality, still remain.

  • The flexibility of the approach is key to success, with no universal solution but instead a more bespoke approach that fits supply and demand.

  • The basket of metrics must include wider attributes to ensure rigour, but technical challenges are significant.

‘So near and yet so far’ was perhaps the take home message from our biodiversity event on Tuesday, hosted at BeZero Carbon’s London office. An audience from business, policy and academic sectors gathered before an expert panel to discuss progress towards biodiversity markets that could help reverse the global decline in nature. It was soon apparent that while the general principles are easy to agree, the devil remains in the details.

Moderated by Carbon Pulse co-founder and correspondent Ben Garside, the panel aired views on the demand for biodiversity credits, what characteristics would define quality, and how impactful the development of new markets might be. Accounting transparency, environmental integrity and robust methodologies were deemed essential attributes. Actually achieving them is no small matter. 

Taking a step back to ask questions about how to measure biodiversity, or even what we mean by the term in the first place, is informative. Every square inch of the planet harbours a unique mixture of genetic material, rendering fungibility - fundamental to carbon markets - a challenging issue. A carbon copy will not work for nature.

Acknowledging this, the speakers - Equinor’s Jesamine Bartlett, Plan Vivo’s Toral Shah, and BeZero’s own Torrey Sanseverino - discussed ideas based around greater flexibility in defining biodiversity credits. The panellists remarked that the use of biodiversity credits as offsets would not be desirable. Yet the likely ‘fractured’ demand side could help promote progress by avoiding the one-size-fits-all mindset, the panel agreed.

Adopting a fluid approach extends to the characteristics of the market itself. A fully fledged nature credit might be the ultimate objective for some investors. In the meantime we can learn from the challenges of quantifying biodiversity co-benefits of carbon projects. Augmenting carbon credits with verifiable biodiversity claims could be a useful early step.

The most devilish of details yet to be worked out nestles in the ‘basket of metrics’: a suite of statistics that would - hopefully - collectively capture the essence of an ecosystem. The uniqueness of nature at any point in time or space presents huge challenges to the construction of meaningful, translatable measures of progress. Technology can help by increasing the quantity and quality of data whilst lowering the costs of its collection. This is arguably where the debate should now focus, and there are encouraging signs that this is happening, even if progress is slow.

Spurred on by the encouragement of the Science Based Targets for Nature (SBTN) and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), corporates are more commonly identifying their impacts on nature. Biodiversity markets could start functioning in the near future to meet likely upcoming corporate demand. Once the demand and supply of biodiversity credits are more concrete, we should see the details of the basket of metrics solidified. 

As a ratings agency, BeZero’s role will be to provide a view on the efficacy of claims concerning biodiversity outcomes. Principles such as additionality, permanence and displacement risks will need to be taken into account. If these factors can be integrated into the creation of biodiversity credits and markets, there will be a better chance of a high quality, transparent proposition coming online in the near term. 

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Read more from BeZero Carbon:

6 April 2023
Deep Dive: Biodiversity Metrics
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9 December 2022
Loss and damage, restoration, COP15 Biodiversity
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20 June 2022
Can carbon and biodiversity outcomes be delivered from the same project?
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