The ACT Government has adopted an environmental offsets policy, which ostensibly enables a valued area of bushland under threat of destruction by development, to be ‘neutralised’ by improving a similar area of bushland.
Lots of us spend our spare time volunteering with various organisations to plant trees, control weeds, and generally doing good environmental work. What would you think if you found out that the work you were doing was actually part of a legally required offset for a large corporation? Or worse still –what if revegetation work you contributed to over many years was retrospectively exchanged for an equivalent amount of environmental damage by a developer? You’d probably be pretty annoyed – and maybe less likely to volunteer for environmental work in the future.
Sound far-fetched? Think again. In one recent infamous example, Canberra residents learned that their volunteer work to revegetate a local park was subsequently used to ‘offset’ the loss of nearby woodland for urban development. And, increasingly, funding is being made available to community groups to do restoration work for threatened species, like Carnaby’s black-cockatoo, but the fine print reveals that the funding is part of an offset for habitat loss.
So, if people react to discovering they’re doing work that will be negated by biodiversity impacts elsewhere to generate profit for someone else, they might just withdraw their volunteer labour, causing declines in environmental volunteerism and the benefits that it generates. This is referred to as ‘crowding out’.
Read more about the issues around this controversial policy here…