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France's new biodiversity law

Last week Environment Bank were part of a Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) webinar on France’s new biodiversity law and the implications for No Net Loss (NNL) of biodiversity.

The session covered;

  • the history of the French legal and regulatory framework relating to biodiversity
  • the key principles of the new law, adopted on the 8th of Aug, and how it differs to the existing/previous rules and guidelines in place.
  • how the mitigation hierarchy and offset implementation is covered.
  • habitat banking, including the new banks being set up and the current selling status of the already operational bank (since 2008)
  • enforcement, monitoring and transparency.

A few interesting points we made note of from the session:

  • %46 of the units at the operational habitat bank (“operation Cossure” in the South of France) have been sold to 6 buyers.
  • Units are now selling at around €45,000, up from an original price of €35,000 in 2008. One unit equates to one hectare of restored habitat which is managed for 30 years.
  • If a developer is non compliant with the new law, an authority can mandate that offsets are executed through a third-party operator or a habitat bank.
  • Discussions are underway as to whether one planning application process can be developed to cover all the aspects of biodiversity (e.g. permits for protected species, forested lands, etc).
  • The key content from 31 methodological sheets (2012) which acted as guidance to accompany the requirement to implement the mitigation hierarchy is now within this new law. Note - offsetting was always mandatory, but is now required by law
  • Work on a standardised metric is underway.
  • Functional proximity for offsets is important rather than the focus being purely on keeping sites local to a development site.
  • Can this be good for developers too? A win-win? Yes, while developers approach to the system is variable, it is seen as a positive way to navigate risk in their projects - greater clarity. And developers can now consider the environment at a very early stage so that implementation of the mitigation hierarchy is more straightforward.
  • Is this new law allowing development to go ahead that would otherwise not have been permitted? No, in some cases projects didn’t go ahead because they couldn’t meet the potential offset. Plus, there are various things developers must comply with when applying for permission, which come with their own safeguards to ensure developers follow the hierarchy and residual impacts are investigated independent of offsets. All those safeguards are still there with this new law, BUT now there is a stronger requirement to offset impacts IF development goes ahead, ie. fewer loop holes so offsetting is harder to avoid. Note - no net loss of biodiversity is the goal to be achieved which will not happen if this were a ‘licence to trash’

The presentation and full webinar recording can be found at http://bbop.forest-trends.org/pages/webinars

Please also see our new information sheet ‘8 International examples’ for more examples of how this system is working around the world.