Biodiversity offsetting is becoming an increasingly common policy tool for resource conservation worldwide. The academic literature frequently refers to a number of risk factors in offset design: data limitations, imprecise equivalency of losses and gains, ecological outcomes falling short of projections, and time lags (not really a risk, more of a certainty). Various means of mitigating these risks have been prescribed, with using multipliers the most common. It is not clear that development regulators properly appreciate offset risks, nor apply the mitigation measures consistently or in a principled manner. They may have a naïve optimism respecting the effectiveness of offset measures, leading them to permit a greater number of impacts, or impacts of greater magnitude, than they would if offsets were not available. If so, this would undermine the effectiveness of offset measures and negate any environmental gain they may provide. This has not been studied previously. This project aims to determine if the availability of offset measures for biodiversity facilitates the permitting of development impacts that 1) would not have been permitted otherwise, and 2) are disproportionate to the benefits provided by offset measures, after all risk factors have been considered. The research question will be pursued through a combination of reviews of permitting decisions, interview with regulatory decision-makers, surveys of regulatory decision-makers using hypothetical scenarios, and perhaps some form of modelling.

Advisory Team: Professor Martine Maron, Professor James Watson

Project members


PhD Candidate