Plans put forward by the Environment Bank and Environment Agency would see businesses pay to offset their green impacts, with the funding used to manage coastal areas.

For the past four years, the Environment Bank has been refining a delivery model for the UK in consultation with central government, NGO’s, developers, landowners, farmers and local authorities.

Now the Shell Foundation has agreed to provide funding and internal expertise for the next year to allow a trial scheme to go-ahead.

It is understood, but not confirmed, that the Government will include some form of conservation credits in its Natural Environment White paper.

So this pilot scheme is, according to the Environment Bank, a chance to get ahead of the white paper which is due out later this spring.

The scheme will in effect create a new market mechanism to enable sea levels to rise in a managed way, with the current site serving as a pilot.

Environment Bank chairman, David Hill, said: “Creating markets for ecosystem goods and services should stop the environment being treated as a non-replenishing extractive industry.

“The model we have developed, together with the trading infrastructure we are constructing, will be capable of listing, registering and validating credits in respect of the full range of emerging markets for ecosystem services.”

Environment Agency area manager, Dr Charles Beardall, said: “We will support the Environment Bank in exploring this approach with the partnerships we have developed throughout our shoreline management plans locally.

“This is a good demonstration of private sector investment working alongside public bodies to create wider environmental, economic and societal benefits for coastal communities”.

Similar schemes exist in the US and Europe and estimates put the value of biodiversity markets globally at $10billion a year.

Luke Walsh

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