Major priorities for countries globally are promoting economic development and improving people’s livelihoods. Infrastructure investment and expansion are projected to grow massively in the coming decades, together with burgeoning renewable energy and mining sectors. To adapt to and address the climate and biodiversity crises, this growth must follow a transformative and just development pathway that aligns with global climate commitments, biodiversity targets and an inclusive and just transformation to a Nature Positive future.

Achieving these societal goals requires leadership by governments, the private sector, including ESIA professionals, and civil society to accelerate the development, improvement and implementation of ambitious and clear net outcome policies, at scale. Best practice application of the mitigation hierarchy is needed so that impacts from project development on biodiversity are anticipated and are - as a priority - avoided, that they are minimised where they could not be avoided, damage is restored, where feasible, and residual impacts offset to achieve net gain outcomes for nature and people. Landscape-scale Nature Positive strategies are needed to provide an enabling environment for dealing with cumulative impacts, and to ensure project-level decisions and outcomes to lead to systemic change.

During the session, which was introduced by Amrei von Hase, COMBO+ Programme Director, we discussed our global work in the IUCN Thematic Group on Impact Mitigation and Ecological Compensation, aimed at supporting a community aiming for best practice, our experience based on the COMBO+ programme in African and Asian countries and the emergence of other landscape-scale nature positive initiatives in Europe and elsewhere.

Using the example of Mozambique, Hugo Costa spoke about the importance of integrating best practice application of the mitigation hierarchy in national legislation and supporting systems, to ensure that negative impacts on biodiversity and people from project development are properly addressed. He presented the strides that the country, supported by the COMBO+ programme, has made in building its mitigation and biodiversity offset regulations, data and systems. Suzanne Cotillon emphasised the role of local communities in delivering conservation and compensation outcomes. She presented work done recently in Guinea, through the COHAB project and supported by COMBO+, to develop and trial conservation agreements with interested communities. The responsibility of business in contributing to global ambitions for nature positive was highlighted and Samir Whitaker presented Orsted’s approach on biodiversity. Last but not least, Steve Edward introduced the concept of ‘biodiversity credits’ and spoke about the potential that these may have in mobilising funding from the private sector for biodiversity.

It was acknowledged that we are currently not yet delivering the transformative changes needed for a nature positive future. Yet, we know many of the essential ingredients for this, including those highlighted during our session.