The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 defined biodiversity as:

“the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”

Biodiversity covers the variety of life on Earth and is threatened by a number of factors, including:

  • climate change

  • population growth and distribution

  • pressure on natural resources

  • agricultural intensification

  • urban and industrial development

  • nutrient loading

  • the spread of non-native invasive species.

Legislation and policy covering site and species protection has been introduced to halt decline and promote the recovery of threatened species and habitats. The law, planning policy and, increasingly, local planning policy, now point towards biodiversity enhancement as part of the development process.

Measures to protect biodiversity in development include biodiversity offsetting schemes. These schemes are projects with measurable biodiversity outcomes that are designed to compensate for unavoidable impacts of development projects on nature, when the conservation hierarchy (avoidance, minimisation and restoration) has been applied and all options have been fully considered.

The Environment Bill introduces new requirements to protect biodiversity, including:

  • introducing the concept of biodiversity net gain as a mandatory requirement for planning permission

  • an introduction of at least one legally-binding target for biodiversity

  • an introduction of new Local Nature Recovery Strategies

  • requirements for public authorities to publish five-yearly Biodiversity Reports.

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