Unravelling the “Net” in Climate and Biodiversity Policy Frameworks

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme:
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 18
Organizers: Louise Carver
Chairs: Duncan McLaren

Call for Submissions

In two key arenas of environmental policy, and at multiple scales there has been a proliferation of targets based on a balancing of gains and losses — ‘Net-Zero’ emissions targets, and ‘No-Net-Loss’/ ‘Net Gain’ biodiversity or ecosystem targets. While welcoming the impetus towards action that these targets appear to suggest, we think it critical to unpack - or unravel - the implications of definitions and framings based on accounting for the ‘net’ balance. In each case (biodiversity and climate), ‘net’ approaches invite the measurement and delivery of emissions or biodiversity units above and below set baselines. They are presented as ways to engender technical and economic pathways towards climate repair and ecological restitution.

‘Net’ approaches depend on principles of accounting and measurement of units for calculation in aggregate framings of environmental health and harm. Geographers have traced the economistic, and sometimes commodifying tendencies of these approaches and the capitalist logics, spaces and (often stunted) financial flows that they support through accounting equivalences. Moreover, in both cases it appears that the possibility of repair (habitat recreation or carbon removal), however speculative, is serving to enable and justify continued losses or emissions— and in some cases accelerate them. The function of the ‘net’ it seems, is a concession to a second-best option in comparison to halting biodiversity loss and cutting emissions to zero. The optimism which ‘net’ induces also relies on uncertain tools for restoration to expand biodiversity, or draw down greenhouse gas levels through removal technologies and investments in land based sinks. ‘Net’ approaches imply inevitable losses: recalcitrant emissions, unavoidable development. This raises many questions: How ‘inevitable’ are such losses and what effects do ‘net’ principles have on these judgements? On what timescales do the losses and gains play out? How quickly could losses be recovered by reparative land and technology based processes?

In this session we would like to explore the emergent theoretical and empirical opportunities for comparisons across both frameworks which have until now remained relatively siloed in geographical scholarship. The year 2021 will see both the postponed UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change CoP 26 and Convention for Biological Diversity CoP 15 where ‘net’ principles in climate, biodiversity and ecosystem governance frameworks will most likely be strengthened and renewed.

This session encourages contributions that explore the practice, principles and politics involved in ‘net’ approaches. Theoretical, speculative or comparative papers and empirical case studies from climate, biodiversity or other environmental policy areas would be welcome. Contributors might address issues such as:

- The relationship between ‘net’ approaches and offsetting
- Incentives and perversities
- Policy practices on the ground
- Intersections with other repair/ restoration practices not connected to compensation
- Objectives and functions of ‘net’ in each domain
- Places where net principles in climate and biodiversity are colliding
- Institutional arrangements of each framework: synergies and conflicts
- Other policy arenas where ‘net’ approaches apply or emerging and relevant lessons
- Temporality of ‘net’ approaches? Are future promises of restitution enabling losses now?
- Spatiality of ‘net’ approaches? Are countries colonising global commons or grabbing resources from elsewhere?
- Scales of ‘net’ principles and their politics.
- Decolonial and epistemic justice considerations— can ‘net’ approaches help with decolonisation or are they inherently colonial in conception and practice?
- Relationships between models, science, policy targets and associated repair technologies
-Social imaginaries embedded in ‘net’ approaches? What do they presume about economic, social and international relations?

Please send abstracts with or without your abstract PIN to Louise Carver (l.carver@lancaster.ac.uk) and Duncan McLaren (d.mclaren@lancaster.ac.uk) by November 18th.


Description

In two key arenas of environmental policy, and at multiple scales there has been a proliferation of targets based on a balancing of gains and losses — ‘Net-Zero’ emissions targets, and ‘No-Net-Loss’/ ‘Net Gain’ biodiversity or ecosystem targets. While welcoming the impetus towards action that these targets appear to suggest, we think it critical to unpack - or unravel - the implications of definitions and framings based on accounting for the ‘net’ balance. In each case (biodiversity and climate), ‘net’ approaches invite the measurement and delivery of emissions or biodiversity units above and below set baselines. They are presented as ways to engender technical and economic pathways towards climate repair and ecological restitution.

‘Net’ approaches depend on principles of accounting and measurement of units for calculation in aggregate framings of environmental health and harm. Geographers have traced the economistic, and sometimes commodifying tendencies of these approaches and the capitalist logics, spaces and (often stunted) financial flows that they support through accounting equivalences. Moreover, in both cases it appears that the possibility of repair (habitat recreation or carbon removal), however speculative, is serving to enable and justify continued losses or emissions— and in some cases accelerate them. The function of the ‘net’ it seems, is a concession to a second-best option in comparison to halting biodiversity loss and cutting emissions to zero. The optimism which ‘net’ induces also relies on uncertain tools for restoration to expand biodiversity, or draw down greenhouse gas levels through removal technologies and investments in land based sinks. ‘Net’ approaches imply inevitable losses: recalcitrant emissions, unavoidable development. This raises many questions: How ‘inevitable’ are such losses and what effects do ‘net’ principles have on these judgements? On what timescales do the losses and gains play out? How quickly could losses be recovered by reparative land and technology based processes?

This session explores the emergent theoretical and empirical opportunities for comparisons across both frameworks which have until now remained relatively siloed in geographical scholarship. The year 2021 will see both the postponed UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change CoP 26 and Convention for Biological Diversity CoP 15 where ‘net’ principles in climate, biodiversity and ecosystem governance frameworks will most likely be strengthened and renewed.


Agenda

Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Guy Crawford*, Lancaster University, Exploring No Net Loss in Colombia: Territorialization and the Operation of Biodiversity Offsets as a Socio-ecological Fix 15 3:05 PM
Presenter Ritwick Ghosh*, New York University, Stephanie Barral, INRAE, “Let it be” - Prospects of market-based conservation in the US 15 3:20 PM
Presenter Kathleen McAfee*, San Francisco State University, Net zero is not zero 15 3:35 PM
Presenter Robert Watt*, University of Manchester, Corporate climate net-zero targets: struggles for definition 15 3:50 PM
Presenter Louise Carver*, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Duncan McLaren, Lancaster University, Netting Natures: An Emerging Comparative Framework 15 4:05 PM

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