”The devil is in the details” : - consensus and contestation of ecological compensation among experts in Finland

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Title: ”The devil is in the details” : - consensus and contestation of ecological compensation among experts in Finland
Author: Karlsson, Thomas Malte Molnár
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202109013600
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Ympäristömuutoksen ja globaalin kestävyyden maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability
Magisterprogrammet i miljöförändringar och global hållbarhet
Specialisation: Globaali kestävyys
Global Sustainability
Global hållbarhet
Abstract: The way environmental issues are discursively constructed matters for how they are understood and what possibilities there are to solve them. This makes it relevant to investigate discourses around environmental issues and their proposed solutions. One such solution is ecological compensation, which has been widely implemented as a way to avoid environmental degradation and achieve no net loss of biodiversity. Compensation is also a contested mechanism, however, which has been shaped by the interplay of various discourses with diverging understandings of nature conservation. In this study, I investigate how ecological compensation is constructed by experts in Finland. Using the concept of storylines (Hajer 1995) I analyse 9 interviews conducted with experts involved in the discussion around ecological compensation, which is currently being implemented into Finnish legislation. Three storylines are identified which construct ecological compensation either as 1) a way to enable private actors to take environmental responsibility, 2) additional legislation to fill a “gap” in current conservation practices, or 3) a possibility to modify the relationship with nature by fostering local deliberations. This shows diverging understandings of ecological compensation among the experts and contestation over the way it should be implemented. What is at stake in the discussion are questions of how nature conservation should be understood, which makes ecological compensation pivotal for reconfiguring the field of nature conservation by shifting understandings of the roles and responsibilities involved. At the same time, consensus exists about the need to implement ecological compensation, which the experts all agree is the only possibility to stop biodiversity loss in Finland. This is traced to the interpretative flexibility of the ecological compensation concept which accommodates conflicting understandings and enables the experts to agree about the need for ecological compensation while contesting the “details” of how the implementation should take place. In that way, the implementation is supported despite contestation, and the discussion is focused on how – rather than whether – ecological compensation should be implemented.
Subject: Discourse analysis
interpretative flexibility
nature conservation
environmental politics
ecological compensation
biodiversity offsetting

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