The National Biodiversity Offset Guideline will reduce and offset biodiversity loss brought on by unsustainable development’s detrimental effects on the nation’s natural environment.

Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, has approved the country’s first National Biodiversity Offset Guideline.

The National Biodiversity Offset Guideline will reduce and offset biodiversity loss brought on by unsustainable development’s detrimental effects on the nation’s natural environment.

The 2018 National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) report by the South African National Biodiversity Institute served as the inspiration for the guideline, which has now been published for implementation (Sanbi).

According to that report, South Africa’s biodiversity was rapidly declining and its ecosystems were rapidly deteriorating.

“Unfortunately, across our assessments, climate change is emerging as a more apparent threat to our species and ecosystems,” said Dr. Andrew Skowno, lead scientist for the NBA at Sanbi, at the time.

Four years and 480 scientists from 90 organisations went into the NBA project. It was revealed that one in seven of the 23 312 indigenous species assessed were in danger of extinction, and nearly half of the nation’s 1 021 ecosystem types faced ecological collapse.

The loss of habitat, modifications to freshwater flow, overuse of some species, pollution, climate change, and invasive alien species were among the major pressures.

The NBA demanded immediate action to stop the loss and deterioration of these natural resources. Creecy concluded the policy by stating: “Biodiversity offsetting is a relatively new practise in South Africa and forms part of the mitigation hierarchy envisioned in the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) principles.

“It hasn’t always been implemented in a consistent, evidence-based manner, so the guideline serves to provide a degree of consistency and standardisation in its implementation,” the statement reads.

The directive, according to her, will also act as an intervention with the goal of enhancing biodiversity management and protection.

The rule only applies to terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems; it does not apply to offshore marine areas or estuarine ecosystems, according to Creecy. Even so, where development will have a negative impact on marine or estuarine ecosystems, biodiversity offsetting is still necessary.

The department stated in a statement regarding the guideline that it is not legally binding.

It also does not take the place of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations or the Nema-outlined environmental authorisation (EA) process.

By providing guidance for the application of Nema and the EIA Regulations in the context of biodiversity impact mitigation and the use of biodiversity offsets, it “supplements the legislation.”

According to department spokesman Peter Mbelengwa, if an intervention is done correctly, the biodiversity outcome balances out the activity’s detrimental effects on biodiversity.

He claimed that the guidelines for balancing biodiversity in South Africa outlined the fundamental principles.

According to him, this includes instructions on how to determine the requirements for biodiversity offsets, when offsets are necessary, and how to make sure that the actions taken are legally binding on the person responsible for implementation.

Francesca de Gasparis, executive director of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), said that the organisation welcomes the recognition of biodiversity as an integral part of life on earth and human well-being as a component of the web of life.

De Gasparis, however, stated that they were worried that the idea of offsetting implied that whatever was consumed in one area could easily be replaced elsewhere.

“We already consume excessive amounts. Ecosystems must be preserved, not destroyed.

We will continue to use and lose priceless non-renewable biodiversity unless we accurately calculate the cost of biodiversity loss in terms of all the systems and values held that are a part of people and the planet, according to De Gasparis.