Apples for Oranges: Disparities in Offset Legislation and Policy among Jurisdictions and its Implications for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Australia

Linda Abdo, Sandy Griffin, Annabeth Kemp


As a signatory to Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (including the Sustainable Development Goals) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, Australia has an international obligation to ensure sustainable development. Biodiversity offsets are one tool used by Australian regulators to allow development to continue, whilst ensuring international obligations for sustainable development are met. In this study, legislation, policy and published guidelines for the Australian Commonwealth, states and territories were analysed to determine if the application of biodiversity offsets was consistent with the principles of sustainable development (environmentally, socially, economically) and if the allowance of biodiversity offsets in different jurisdictions created gaps in biodiversity and environmental protection across Australia. Regulation of biodiversity offsets was found to be inconsistent between the Commonwealth and the states and territories, with most jurisdictions having less than 50% similarity. This inconsistency in offset policy and legislation between jurisdictions could lead to loss of biodiversity. Additionally, jurisdictions did not adequately consider the social and economic aspects of sustainability in relation to biodiversity offsets, meaning that, through the allowance of biodiversity offsets, Australia may not be meeting their international obligations related to sustainable development. Further legislative development for biodiversity offsets is required in Australia to improve environmental protection and to adequately consider all aspects of sustainability. The Council of Australian Governments is a mechanism that could be used to ensure all jurisdictions consider the aspects of sustainability consistently in relation to biodiversity offsets.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Linda Abdo, Sandy Griffin, Annabeth Kemp

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Environmental Management and Sustainable Development  ISSN 2164-7682

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