National Guidelines for Biodiversity and Social Offsets
In a bid to ensure that development projects do not adversely affect biodiversity which is critical for peoples’ wellbeing and livelihoods, the Government of Uganda has put in place policies and legal frameworks aimed at adopting and implementing international best practices and standards that ensure No Net Loss (NNL) and preferably a net gain of biodiversity and related social benefits. To this end, the National Environment Act 2019 requires developers of projects for which Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) or environmental risk assessment is required, to apply the mitigation hierarchy principles including biodiversity offsets as appropriate. The Act also mandates the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to issue guidelines for biodiversity or other offsets, based on best practices. It is in this context that these Guidelines have been developed. They provide guidance to project developers, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders on different aspects concerning biodiversity offsets to ensure mitigation of residual impacts and achieve
measurable conservation outcomes.
The Guidelines define what a biodiversity offset is and what it is not, and provide principles that govern biodiversity offsets based on international best practice. It is emphasized that offsets are the ‘last resort’ form of mitigation, only to be implemented after considering avoidance, minimizing and restoration of the impacts of
development projects on biodiversity and the related social benefits. The Guidelines also provide a snapshot of the international and national legal and policy framework governing biodiversity offsets, and the different obligations it engenders on different actors and stakeholders. Recognizing the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as the most important tool for integration of biodiversity and related social concerns, the guidelines provide guidance on how biodiversity offsets can be integrated in the ESIA and subsequent processes. The most important starting point is to ensure that the scoping report and Terms of Reference (ToRs) for carrying out the ESIA are explicit and comprehensive with respect to identifying whether or not biodiversity offsetting will be required for the project to enable integration of biodiversity offsets during the ESIA process. It is also important that the ESIA practitioners who undertake an ESIA includes professionals and expertise in biodiversity and social aspects.
The Guidelines recognize that there are different actors involved in planning, designing, implementing, monitoring and reporting on biodiversity offsets. To this end, the Guidelines provide the roles and responsibilities of the key actors and stakeholders involved in a biodiversity offset system at the different stages of planning, designing, implementing, managing, monitoring and evaluation, auditing, and reporting. Guidance is also provided on the mechanisms for delivering offsets, including how to analyze the different options in terms of their funding and otherresource requirements. Of critical importance, the guidelines provide decision makers with information that is necessary to inform their decision-making processes with respect to different aspects of a biodiversity offset that are important for ensuring successful implementation of biodiversity offsets in Uganda.
These Guidelines should be read and followed in conjunction with the applicable legislation, regulations including National Environment (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) No. 143 of 2020 and other procedural guidelines to ensure that the mandatory requirements are met. They should also be read or used while taking into consideration the particular context and circumstances within which a particular project is conceived and developed.