Exploring No Net Loss in Colombia: Territorialization and the Operation of Biodiversity Offsets as a Socio-ecological Fix

Authors: Guy Crawford*, Lancaster University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography
Keywords: Biodiversity offsetting, territorialization, production of nature, Colombia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 18
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the last decade, biodiversity offset (BDO) schemes have received increased attention from policy-makers, leading to a significant proliferation of such policies internationally (see Bennett, Gallant & ten Kate, 2017). Given this rapid expansion, there is a pressing need to make sense of the implications and functioning of existing schemes on the ground. In this paper, I examine the implementation of a nascent BDO system in Colombia, which came into effect in 2013. In the shadow of an export-orientated extractivist regime of accumulation (Tauss & Large, 2015), the Colombian Government has sought to put in place policy organized around the objectives of ‘no net loss’ to biodiversity and ‘ecological equivalence’ between purported gains and losses derived from economic development. Drawing upon work on the role of the state in the discursive and material production of nature (Ioris, 2014; Parenti, 2015) and socio-ecological fixes (Ekers & Prudham, 2015), this analysis charts the network of actors within and beyond formal state institutions that engage in practices required to produce ‘equivalent natures’ (Apostolopoulou et al., 2018: 861). Based on secondary data and over 70 interviews with key actors, I demonstrate how ‘no net loss’ policy functions in practice and explore attendant re-territorializations of public and private space. This analysis shows that firms have tended to comply with offset regulation by buying-up private lands to expand or consolidate state protected areas – leading to the nationalization of land – with regional and national state environmental authorities acquiring legal ownership of formally private property.

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