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Biodiversity offsets as market-based instruments for ecosystem services? From discourses to practices. Ecosystem services

Lapeyre R., Froger G., Hrabanski M.. 2015. Ecosystem Services, 15 : p. 125-133.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.10.010

Building on the analytical frameworks of policy arrangements and new institutional economics, this article introduces the special issue on biodiversity offsets as market-based instruments (MBIs) for ecosystem services, deconstructing discourses and exploring practices on the ground. The idea of compensating environmental damages from development emerged in the 1970s in the USA and Europe. From the beginning of the century, as the international community became increasingly interested in MBIs as allegedly efficient mechanisms for environmental management, MBIs have rapidly gained traction within the biodiversity compensation policy arena. Terms of compensatory mitigation, biodiversity offsets, mitigation banking, habitat banking, species banking, wetlands mitigation, etc., have therefore widely spread as policy tools around the globe. In this context, academics, practitioners and decision-makers have most often characterized those schemes theoretically as an MBI and frequently grouped them all under the umbrella term of 'biodiversity offsets'. Building on contributions from the special issue, this article contends that biodiversity offset programs are on the contrary mainly characterized as a variety of different heterogeneous policy and institutional arrangements with limited features of market governance. Furthermore, hybrid structures, through long-term bilateral agreements with specific assets and between parties whose identity is crucial, are the rule rather than the exception.

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