Eeva Primmer, Finnish Environment Institute

Finland has spent the summer talking about ecological compensations. The idea that nature conservation should be funded by the activity that causes biodiversity loss or climate change has drawn the attention of the media, politicians and businesses. This is an area where research and administration have been developing ideas and mechanisms already for some time, with payments for ecosystem services and carbon trade as concrete examples.

Just before the heatwave hit Europe, the 5th European Congress for Conservation Biology (ECCB) was held in Jyväskylä, Finland. The conference in June had a full day dedicated to ecological compensations, with contributions from Finland’s Minister of Environment, two Finnish members of European Parliament and numerous representatives of business, administration and research.

The conference also offered participants an opportunity to compensate for the footprint of their travel by contributing to peatland protection but only less than half of the participants offset their environmental impacts. They might have had difficulty in putting their research money into a new type of fund. Or perhaps they did not see how and where these funds would actually be invested, to generate the offset.

Anyhow, the Finnish media has since paid a lot of attention to the responsibility of individual travelers, consumers, companies, and sectors in protecting our ecosystems. The numerous editorials, columns and blogs over the summer show that the polluter pays principle has truly been taken up in the public discussion.

What is often ignored in these discussions is the ways in which nature degrading activities can be offset. Who organizes the offset, what is done to improve the status of biodiversity or to advance carbon sequestration? How much needs to be done, to truly offset the losses? How can we find landowners to offer sites for offsets, willing to restore and protect nature? The ECCB organized peatland conservation as an offset for conference participants’ but many times the green investments cannot be traced to the conservation effort.

To answer these questions, the InnoForESt case study Habitat Bank of Finland is developing biodiversity offset supply for ecological compensation. The experience will feed to other InnoForESt case areas and support the innovative green business development across Europe.

About the author: Eeva Primmer is Research Professor at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), and a forester by background. She studies the interface between policy and practice and offsets her international work travel by cycling, and many other every-day-sustainabilities.