A concept to promote sustainable development
Marine Biodiversity Offsets… it is a concept that when put into principle is to be used as a tool for the private sector and the government to work together to conserve and manage environment while promoting sustainable development. And for the past two days, the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) through the Australia-Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration is providing Belize with an opportunity to adopt marine biodiversity offsets. As it implies, the workshop focuses mainly on offshore developments, but can also be applied to terrestrial projects as well as to address measures that can be taken to compensate for significant or adverse impacts. Stakeholders and partners gathered at the Radisson to evaluate and discuss the potential benefits of the offsets strategy which experts believe can improve integrated coastal zone management and biodiversity conservation.
Vincent Gillett, C.E.O., Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute
“For development, we have to look at all of those options which allow us to find a balance within our conservation goals and our development goals without sacrificing, without sacrificing, those very resources that we depend on. And this particular concept is a way of doing so because what we have is the concept biodiversity offsets which actually gives us measures, numbers, metrics of what the situation is. So that there is what is described technically in literature as no net loss of biodiversity in the development proposal. In other words, there is no gain for developer to an extreme extent; there is no loss for us to an extreme extent…we want to have no net loss in our biodiversity values.”
Ray Victorine, Wildlife Conservation Society
“All developing countries have choices and challenges and one of those is of course to promote develop, create jobs and at the same time a lot of those jobs are dependent on natural resources and I think that’s the case in Belize. This idea of biodiversity offsets creates an opportunity where we can try to promote development and at the same time ensure the protection of our natural resources. It is something that is happening around the world; in Latin America for example, several countries are developing new laws: Chile, Peru, Colombia…all around offsetting and the mechanism to balance development and conservation.”
“If you know Belize and you know the conservation community and if you know how very engaged our governments have been in ensuring that our resources remain as intact as possible and for the long term benefits of Belizeans which we have described as sustainable, clearly we are not going to sell-off our resources. The key thing is sustainability, but we are also recognizing that for our long term development, for the long term sustenance of our country and the people of Belize and for us to be able to utilize our resources sustainably so that we can benefit from them, development is clearly a key component.”
Biodiversity offset gives private sector an opportunity to be creative
Day-two of the workshop targeted the private sector on how the concept of biodiversity offsets can help the economic status of the country and alleviate poverty; specifically for those living among rich, environmentally-diverse communities. For President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kay Menzies, it provides entrepreneurs and private sector with an opportunity to be creative.
Kay Menzies, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry
“I think everybody kinda looks at it and thinks oh my god it’s some way of trying to do business and trying to safe environment all at once—and it is—but they tend to think that means that you are going to spend millions trying to avoid damaging an environment and that makes it harder to do business. I think e need to start looking at it from a smaller perspective. We are here to learn a lot today and I think that we have a beautiful environment in Belize and with a lot of creativity and a lot of hard work which we need in business anyway that we can do quite a bit. The thing we have is that we have a lot of communities that live within the best and most beautiful parts of our environment. We need to find ways for them to begin to develop sustainably and to thrive and it is not impossible at all. If we are creative enough and we work hard enough to find solutions, we can actually find solutions that allow Belizeans to thrive; to begin making more of an income than they make now and still find that our environment thrives along with it. Not impossible at all.”
Follow up workshops are to be held in the months to come to include further participation of the private sector.