Biodiversity offsets: harnessing innovative financing solutions for biodiversity conservation in Mozambique

Mozambique forum
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Media Breakfast and a Public Forum on Economic Development and Biodiversity Conservation in Mozambique

During Biodiversity week, BIOFIN Mozambique partnered with BIOFUND and Combo Project/WCS in organizing two important events in Maputo to raise awareness on the urgent need of harmonizing economic development and biodiversity conservation using the mitigation hierarchy, no net loss and biodiversity offsets as innovative solutions.

The first event was a media breakfast about biodiversity offsets, which took place on the 22nd of May, the International Day of Biodiversity. Then followed a public forum on the 24th of May. The main objective of these events was to raise awareness on the concepts of Mitigation Hierarchy, No Net Loss, and Biodiversity Offsets into the wider public, as a way of building public support for the development and implementation of a regulated biodiversity offset mechanism for Mozambique.

The target group of the media breakfast was the media in general; therefore, various social media were invited. Various national and international media attended the event, including newspapers and magazines, radio and television, namely TVM, the largest public television broadcaster in Mozambique, among others. Having the representatives of the three institutions as the main speakers, namely Victorino Xavier (BIOFIN Project Coordinator), Alexandra Jorge (BIOFUND programmes’ s Director), Hugo Costa (Combo Project Coordinator) and Sean Nazerali (BIOFUND Adviser), the main topic revolved around the economic development and biodiversity conservation including impact mitigation strategies and biodiversity offsets mechanisms. Additionally, the event was also an opportunity for these institutions and projects to inform the media on the work they are developing and present the common points of the three around the biodiversity offsets mechanism for Mozambique. BIOFIN sees biodiversity offsets as a potential finance solution to be implemented and that is directed related to the ultimate goal of our work which is the development and reinforcement of financial mechanisms for biodiversity in Mozambique.

Given the current specific context of Mozambique’s economic development, driven by significant mining explorations of coal and natural gas and oil, with further huge prospects for natural gas and possibly oil, both onshore and offshore and not adhering to operational international best practices, which pose threats to biodiversity, the adequate application of the mitigation hierarchy, including offsets provide a promising way to reconcile economic development and biodiversity conservation.  The implementation of a biodiversity offsets mechanism in Mozambique can ensure that project developers take into account biodiversity conservation aspects in their planning, and they have a vehicle through which to contribute with financial resources to enhance biodiversity conservation elsewhere in an appropriate geographic scale, with measurable outcomes to last on the long term, in the light of damage they cannot completely avoid, minimize or restore. Moreover, the development of a biodiversity offset mechanism could serve to bridge the gap existing in environmental legislation, since the new regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment makes provision for the application of the biodiversity offset concept, but no specific regulation for implementation has been developed as yet. This joint effort by the three institutions will have as a ultimate goal to support the creation of the mechanism regulation.

The event raised a lot of interest from the journalists and other participants, measuring by the discussions and requests for follow up talks and interviews on the subject.  BIOFIN work, in general, was a subject of interest from the journalists, with the coordinator invited to provide further insights about the project.

The forum on mitigation hierarchy, no net loss and biodiversity offsets was a larger public event held on the 24th May as a side event of the BIOFUND Annual General Assembly. The event counted with the participation of BIOFUND Board members and General Assembly members, representatives of government institutions, former ministers and cabinet members, regulators, academia and research institutions, private sector including project developers and environmental impact assessment consultants, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral cooperation organizations, experts on biodiversity conservation and financing (including international specialists from the Project COMBO) and media.

In his opening remarks, Professor Jorge Ferrão, Vice-Chancellor of Pedagogic University, former Education Minister and former Vice-Chancellor of Lurio University stressed that the declaration of International Day of Biodiversity and the creation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) by the United Nations, marked a shift in the way we used to think of biodiversity.

"In the past, we tended to think of biodiversity as fauna and flora only, but now we understand it is beyond that, it encompasses the ecosystems and their services, and the way we use and manage these. Therefore, this theme of biodiversity offset is in the same stream, and it is highly welcomed as an innovative mechanism to helps us to better manage our biodiversity resources in Mozambique," he said.

Experts have introduced key legal and technical instruments for the implementation of an aggregated system of biodiversity offsets in Mozambique – e.g. the Roadmap supported by the World Bank in 2016. Global experiences were highlighted, emphasizing the need of strategic planning and partners engagement for an effective implementation of the mitigation hierarchy scheme. On the conservation perspective, indirect impacts from economic development activities are the most significant ones; however, often they are very difficult to predict. For instance, infrastructure such as roads, may have relatively low impacts on biodiversity if one considers only the footprint of the project, but when one considers the induced impacts that will result from increased access to remote areas, the impacts on biodiversity increase significantly. As a result, environmental strategic planning is a good approach to address these issues, working with different parties in the design of mitigation actions, especially avoidance, hence the relevance of the mitigation hierarchy. Biodiversity offsets are only applied when the mitigation hierarchy is completely implemented and if there are residual impacts. It is fundamental to have the appropriate choice of the reference scenario and right approach, a legal and financial mechanism and engagement of relevant sectors is critical for a long-term successful implementation.

In the light of the challenges, opportunities and some limitations in the approaches, the work that is being undertaken to develop a biodiversity offsets mechanism in Mozambique was presented as well as the actors involved in the process. In the closing remarks, some participants mentioned the need for the natural resource windfalls to benefit biodiversity restoration in the future, and not only through the offsets. This point in a forum like this is highly important because it can be the starting point for active debates on possibilities of earmarking natural resources revenues for biodiversity, as a financial solution, like in the Philippines case where BIOFIN work managed to get a certain percentage of the National Oil Fund earmarked to biodiversity conservation. Moreover, this highlights the importance of having a mix of approaches and financial solutions for the sustainability of outcomes in biodiversity conservation and financing.

A key lesson from these initiatives is   the relevance of partnerships with other actors in fostering new approaches for biodiversity conservation and financing in Mozambique, building on the strengths from the work each partner is developing. Thus, the work of our partners, namely BIOFUND and COMBO Project, is highly relevant for BIOFIN process in Mozambique, particularly in developing innovative fiancé solutions for biodiversity. BIOFUND Biodiversity Offsets Program is implemented with the financial support from Counterpart International funded by USAID and FUNBIO/CAFÉ/RedLAC funded by FFEM, Mava Foundation and GEF. The COMBO project is a four year, four-country initiative to expand and improve the application of the mitigation hierarchy and NNL initiatives in Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique and Uganda. This project is funded by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), the Fonds Français pour Environment Mondial (FFEM) and the Mava Foundation.