Defra and BSI working on nature investment standard to boost biodiversity efforts

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has today (23 March) announced a new partnership with the UK National Standards Body, BSI, to kickstart a programme designed at overcoming the barriers to investing in nature.

Defra and BSI working on nature investment standard to boost biodiversity efforts

The ENVI committee vote takes place on 29 November

The Nature Investment Standards Programme has officially been launched by the Government and BSI. Its overall task is to instigate a framework that will help funnel more investment into nature-based solutions and efforts to improve biodiversity.

The programme will lead to the creation of a new, consensus-based, UK-wide standards framework for nature. It will aim to scale up “high integrity markets” for private investments into nature, guard against the risks of greenwashing by improving transparency and data and ultimately improve nature recovery as the UK pushes toward its net-zero target for 2050.

BSI’s director-general of standards Scott Steedman said: “Enabling high integrity nature markets can help build confidence, attract investment, and empower land managers and other stakeholders to deliver projects that can achieve meaningful environmental impact. This is important at a time when these markets are emerging, to guard against greenwashing, and has the potential to offer substantial benefits to society.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Defra, the Devolved Administrations and industry to shape a standards framework supporting high integrity nature markets by providing improved rigour, consistency and clarity. Ultimately this can help accelerate progress towards a sustainable world.”

The Green Finance Institute’s ‘Financing Nature Recovery UK’ report found that planned public spending on nature conservation and restoration in the UK for 2022-2032 is up to £97bn short of the levels needed to deliver commitments made by the UK Government and devolved governments.

The headline commitment from the Government is to leave nature in a better state for the next generation, which is not being delivered. The UK Government’s post-Brexit environmental watchdog published its first report, warning of a “worrying and persistent environmental decline” that is likely to continue in the absence of “purposeful and coherent” government action.

Back in 2019, the ‘State of Nature’ report confirmed that 41% of British species have been in decline since 1970, with the decline “continuing unabated”.

Defra claims the new BSI programme, which will run for three years, is the first in a suite of interventions that the UK is introducing as part of its forthcoming Green Finance Strategy and Nature Markets Framework.

Lord Benyon, Environment and Green Finance Minister, said: “To restore landscapes and help fund the transition to nature-friendly farming, we need to mobilise investment into the natural environment and prioritise clean growth.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the BSI to shape UK standards to support investment in long-term, sustainable nature recovery as part of our forthcoming Green Finance Strategy and Nature Markets Framework. These standards will provide clarity and structure in nature markets and drive a step-change in the role of private finance in addressing nature’s decline, building on domestic and international practices, initiatives and innovation.”

People’s Plan for Nature

In related news, the first ever UK-wide citizens’ assembly for nature has published its recommendations for businesses, governments and communities to better protect and renew the natural environment.

The People’s Plan for Nature is based on several months of discussions at public forums. It received 30,000 responses, and a citizens’ assembly made up of 100 people from all four nations of the UK.

The Plan calls on all commercial and policy decisions to take into account potential impacts on nature, while asking for greater Government accountability that would be scrutinised through a permanent Assembly for Nature made up of NGOs, industry and public expertise.

Other key recommendations include overhauling the current farming subsidy system to promote nature-friendly practices, listing access to nature as a human right, introducing labelling in supermarkets for impact on nature and urgently restoring rivers and wetlands.

Commenting on the Plan, Professor Nathalie Seddon of the University of Oxford, one of the assembly’s academic leads, said: “The People’s Plan for Nature is a roadmap to help us get from where we are now, living in a highly degraded nature-depleted country, to where we need to be, empowered and living as part of flourishing landscapes, seascapes and cities, healthier, happier and re-connected with nature.

“I was impressed by the rigour of the process, the spirit of collaboration and openness among a very diverse group of Assembly members, and the quality of their discussions and questions. I think that the Assembly has come up with a really compelling set of critical actions to restore the vitality of our environment.

“The experience left me feeling hopeful for the future of UK nature as well as for nature in general; there’s a good chance that if we get things right here, other places will be inspired to do the same.”

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