Beyond Net Gain: ‘Restorative Inputs’ and Legal Standard in International Law

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Afshin Akhtar-Khavari

Publication Date:

The concepts of net gain and no net loss have been dominant in ensuring that we approach development in a sustainable way. In a recent review of the most important environmental legislation in Australia (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)) offsets were confirmed as a strategy for avoiding no net loss. The concept of the offset in the EPBC Act review was underpinned by a commitment to sustainability. This paper will explore the concepts of net gain and no net loss as it used in international law instruments to argue that these concepts are ethically neutral, if not harmful, as they don’t account for the major drivers of anthropogenic harm and change, and also don’t support active recovery strategies. These concepts don’t really mobilise and seek to add complexity to ecosystems over time, and presume that simple costbenefit assessment will ensure neutral and sustainable impacts on the environment (prioritising transactional responses). This paper will explore how adding complexity through ‘restorative inputs’, which is included as part of principle 8 of the SER 2019 International Standards, can help us move beyond the net gain paradigm. It is arguable that restorative inputs is a standard within principle 8 for achieving cumulative gain and contributes to the complexity that can help manage unpredictability. This paper will use the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to explain and explore the potential of restorative inputs to achieve something different than the no net loss strategy of the regime.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program