The contested instruments of a new governance regime: accounting for nature and building markets for biodiversity offsets

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    Abstract

    Purpose – this paper analyses the processes involved in the creation and eventual demise of a market for biodiversity offsets in the UK. The reasons for the failure of this market to take hold as a governance mechanism are considered, and its subsequent effects examined.

    Design/methodology/approach – the research examines a single case study of the creation of a pilot market for biodiversity offsets in the UK. Data includes policy and industry papers, complemented with interviews with biodiversity offset practitioners, regulators and nongovernment organisations.

    Findings – the case study demonstrates that a market for biodiversity offsets was piloted with the intent to contribute to the reform of the UK planning regime. However, disagreements about this political project, uncertainties in the knowledge base, and continued entanglements with existing biodiversity meant it was impossible stabilise the assemblages necessary to support the market, leading to its eventual demise. However, the principles and devices of
    offsetting have proved more resilient, and have started to combine with the existing arrangements for the governance of nature.

    Practical implications – the paper presents a situation where a political project to reform governance arrangements through the creation of a market was not successful, making it of interest to researchers and policymakers alike.

    Originality/value – while biodiversity offsetting has been widely discussed from scientific, legal and political perspectives, this article addresses it as a market, explicitly designed to become a part of a governance regime. It also advances the understanding of the mechanisms by which similar processes of marketisation can fail, and suggests avenues for future research in those contexts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1568-1590
    Number of pages23
    JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
    Volume30
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2017

    Keywords

    • Biodiversity offsetting
    • Accounting for Biodiversity
    • Social Studies of Marketisation
    • Governance
    • Ecological accounting

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