“Everything you need to know about biodiversity credits”: A Crash Course with SUPERB’s Dr Sophus zu Ermgassen  

As an expert in biodiversity finance and offsetting, ecological economist Dr Sophus zu Ermgassen from Oxford University likes to investigate the question of how to make “biodiversity credits work for nature”.  

In a recent webinar for IUCN CEM’s Impact Mitigation and Ecological Comensation Thematic Group, the researcher notes that there’s a tension between “what is required to make these credits work for nature and what makes them financially attractive investments”. The question of how to both satisfy the needs of nature and those of finance will therefore become more and more central within the upcoming years. 

While similarly defined as what we know from carbon credits, Sophus explains that biodiversity credits remain a largely contested concept. He currently frames them as a “commodified unit of biodiversity gain” upon which buyers can then make claims about. This means that a buyer could purchase a credit and in turn say they have improved biodiversity by a certain amount (depending on the biodiversity metric).  

Yet there remains much tension between what we want biodiversity credits to be and how they are currently employed, says Sophus. With a huge amount of variation in biodiversity credit initiatives, he explains that there is little consensus about what exactly should be measured as well as how it should be done. This also relates to measuring the very impact of biodiversity credit investments themselves. Non-systematic samples and a wide variety of monitoring methods also make it difficult to currently govern biodiversity credits.  

What Sophus argues for is that we should pay much more attention to causation, as otherwise we are not delivering what we are claiming. This means developing more credible and robust scientific credit methods, so that we do not risk “commodifying nothing”. He mentions that sometimes people, for instance, receive payments for forests that were never under threat of being cut down anyways.  

Scientifically credible biodiversity credits must therefore showcase that they deliver something additional to a specific site and context; this means that credits should have actually made a difference for the level of biodiversity that can be measured. By paying more attention to causation, Sophus argues that we can be much more precise about what falls under biodiversity credits and what not. 

To learn more about current debates on biodiversity credits listen to the full webinar via this link