Biobanking: A City Slicker + Country Bumpkin Wedding?

So we’ve made it this far. City slicker building owners could offset the remainder of their carbon impacts by restoring some biodiversity. And we have some country bumpkins [sorry, can’t help it] with poor crop yields, falling soil fertility, regular droughts and floods and falling commodity prices.

I know what we need – a wedding!

In this all-but-final installment of the City Slicker series we look at how a city development could have eco-offsets in the countryside locked in against the building, thereby making them ‘part of the development’, and thereby making them recognisable by a suite of green building rating tools.

The best starting point I’ve managed to find is the NSW Governments’ Biodiversity Banking and Offsets Scheme, or ‘Biobanking’ scheme.

The principle is relatively simple; a developer identifies their total ecological and/or species impact that will result from their development. They then purchase ‘bio-credits’ to offset that impact. The credits are invested in a land trust which then manages biodiversity restoration directly with rural landowners. The landowner becomes the steward of the restoration and receives a management fee for the service.

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image from 5th Estate; could we use the bionbanking vehicle but change what it does?

Now before you get all hot and bothered; this particular scheme is effectively a mechanism allowing developers to trash a site and ‘offset’ the impacts, which in biodiversity terms doesn’t really work – it’s not possible to magically replace a highly developed ecological community somewhere else. It’s gone. There’s a good article on the 5th Estate that delves into this.

But, what I’m interested in is the mechanism that can allow a city building to offset its carbon impact by restoring rural landscapes. The biobanking scheme lays out a method by which this could be facilitated.

I can also see a pathway where the land trust component could itself be removed, allowing a direct agreement between the building owner and the rural landowner. All it needs is a template agreement drafted up by a gaggle of lawyers, offset details and fees agreed, and away we go. (don’t you love my simple outlook on life?)

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image credit; Queensland Country Life

It’s clear that there are existing ways in which we can offset residual carbon impacts from our buildings into biodiversity restoration, and that rural landowners can get some upside too. There are other schemes around that are similar to NSW Biobanking, so it’s not unique.

Tomorrow we’ll have a quick look at which of our green building rating tools might already reward this, and hopefully close the loop.

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