The Conservation, Mitigation and Biodiversity Offset (COMBO) program helps countries around the world balance biodiversity conservation with development. Our approach encourages governments, industry and civil society to apply the mitigation hierarchy, a sequence of four key steps – Avoidance, Minimisation, Restoration and Offsets – which are international best practice for reducing impacts on biodiversity from development.

COMBO supports uptake of the mitigation hierarchy globally by working with a wide range of stakeholders. Our current focus is to improve mitigation practices in four African countries – Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique and Madagascar – and two Asian countries – Laos and Myanmar. The six countries all present global opportunities for the conservation of global biodiversity and are faced with very rapid development of large potentially impacting infrastructure projects. Our goal is to reconcile economic development and conservation objectives, by contributing to the definition and implementation of policies aimed at no net loss, or even a net gain, in biodiversity and the achievement of national biodiversity targets that will result from CBD COP 15.

COMBO encourages uptake of the mitigation hierarchy by supporting: (1) improved national policy and its application, particularly through cross-sectoral coordination; (2) tools and guidance for better use of biodiversity data for avoiding impacts and other mitigation actions; (3) financing and implementation mechanisms; and (4) better institutional capacity of governments, industry, financial institutions and civil society.

COMBO builds national capacity in each focal country to reconcile economic development and biodiversity conservation. We work with a wide range of actors to achieve our objectives. In the public sector, we work with a wide range of institutions and people. We engage policy-makers at national level and in local government for provincial development plans. In central government, our partners include environment ministries and affiliate agencies, as well as sectoral institutions (e.g. ministries of energy and infrastructure agencies) and multi-sectoral institutions such as the Office of the Prime Minister and agencies involved in strategic environmental assessments.

Relevant industry sectors for our work include extractives, energy, agro-industry, forestry, tourism and transport sectors. We help government agencies improve regulation on environmental impact assessment and we build capacity of environmental and social consultants to apply regulation. We work closely with development banks and private sector lenders to encourage application of lender standards. Conservation trust funds are important partners for developing offsets financing and assuring effective outcomes from offsets. We work with civil society organisations because of their role in observing potential impacts on biodiversity and their potential to hold public and private sectors to account. Community-based organisations, communities and indigenous peoples can contribute unique perspectives on biodiversity and the benefits people derive from nature. Their participation in design of site-based activities is necessary to integrate their needs and priorities and avoid adverse impacts on communities. Conservation organisations have expertise in biodiversity measurement and conservation management which is relevant for understanding development impacts and managing offsets.