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Media Release: Minister of Environmental Affairs publishes draft National Biodiversity Offset Policy for public comment

10 April 2017

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has published the draft National Biodiversity Offset Policy in Government Gazette 40733 (Notice No. 276) for public comment.

The National Biodiversity Offset Policy has been published in terms the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) (NEMA).

The aim of the National Biodiversity Offset Policy is to ensure that significant residual impacts of developments are remedied, as required by NEMA, thereby ensuring sustainable development takes place in line with the Constitutional Right to an environment that is not harmful to the health and well-being of all who live in South Africa.

It furthermore also responds to The National Development Plan (NDP) that requires that we sustain South Africa’s ecosystems and using natural resources efficiently. In this regard, the NDP states the following: “…. measures to protect the country’s natural resources including an environmental management framework in which developments that have serious environmental or social effects need to be offset by support for improvements in related areas and a target for the amount of land and oceans under protection.”

The NDP provides a succinct summary of the nature of the environmental challenges to which biodiversity offsets could respond: Market and policy failures have resulted in the global economy entering a period of "ecological deficit", as natural capital (ground water, marine life, terrestrial biodiversity, crop land and grazing) is being degraded, destroyed, or depleted faster than it can be replenished.”

Habitat loss is recognized as the primary driver of biodiversity loss and biodiversity offsets are becoming an internationally accepted tool which can be used to ensure that development is ecologically sustainable by enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of priority ecosystems and fragile biodiversity-rich areas not under formal protection.

In order to manage the impact of development on biodiversity, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process has been developed and legislated, and one of the first steps in this process entails the application of a mitigation sequence.  This policy should be taken into consideration with every development application that still has significant residual impact after the mitigation sequence has been followed in the Environmental Impact Assessment process, and should be applied taking the principles of NEMA into consideration.  In addition the policy requires this process to be finalised before the application is submitted for approval, in order to enable the relevant Competent Environmental Authorities to make an informed decision.

In recognition of development challenges, biodiversity offsets have been developed in terms of the National Biodiversity Framework (NBF), which states, among others, that “biodiversity offsets are particularly important in securing threatened ecosystems and critical biodiversity areas.”

Implementation of the draft policy on biodiversity offsets for South Africa will ensure that due remedy is obtained for significant adverse impacts on biodiversity resulting from development.  The policy will contribute to securing priority biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in perpetuity, for the benefit of both present and future generations, and so ensure sustainable development.

The draft policy defines offsets, their purpose and sets the desired outcomes of biodiversity offsets in the country. 

In addition, the policy:

  • Specifies when biodiversity offsets would and would not be appropriate;
  • Requires offsets to be considered as an integral part of the mitigation sequence during the planning of all EIAs
  • Sets out the legal framework and principles of offsets;
  • Specifies the requirements of the offset process in South Africa;
  • Sets standards and create consistency and predictability in the use of biodiversity offsets across the country.

Members of the public are invited to submit to the Minister within 60 days after the publication of the notice in the Gazette, written representations on, or objections to the following addresses:

By post to: 
The Director-General 
Department of Environmental Affairs 
Attention: Ms Willeen Olivier 
Private Bag X447 
PRETORIA 
0001 

By hand at: 
Environment House, 473 Steve Biko Road, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0083.

By email:
wolivier@environment.gov.za

Any enquiries in connection with the draft National Biodiversity Offsets Policy can be directed to Ms Willeen Olivier at 012 399 9581.

An electronic copy of the draft National Biodiversity Offsets Policy can be downloaded from the following link: https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/legislations/nema107of1998_draftnationalbiodiversityoffsetpolicy_gn40733.pdf

Comments received after the closing date may not be considered.

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs

Media enquiries:
Albi Modise
083 400 5741

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