The Role of “No Net Loss” Policies in Conserving Biodiversity Threatened by the Global Infrastructure Boom

Elsevier, One Earth, Volume 1, Issue 3, 22 November 2019, Pages 305-315
Sophus Olav Sven Emilzu Ermgassen, Pratiwi Utamiputri, Leon Bennun, Stephen Edwards and Joseph William Bull

Over US$60 trillion is predicted to be spent on new infrastructure globally by 2040. Is it possible to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 (develop infrastructure networks) without sacrificing goals 14 and 15 (ending biodiversity loss)? We explore the potential role of “no net loss” (NNL) policies in reconciling these SDGs. We assess country-level overlaps between planned infrastructure expansion, infrastructure-threatened biodiversity, and national biodiversity compensation policies and find that around half of predicted infrastructure and infrastructure-threatened biodiversity falls within countries with some form of mandatory compensation policy. However, these policies currently have shortcomings, are unlikely to achieve NNL in biodiversity, and could risk doing more harm than good. We summarize policy transformations required for NNL policies to mitigate all infrastructure impacts on biodiversity. To achieve SDGs 9 alongside 14 and 15, capitalizing on the global coverage of mandatory compensation policies and rapidly transforming them into robust NNL policies (emphasizing impact avoidance) should be an urgent priority.