Defra backs natural capital investment projects

Four projects focused on protecting and restoring natural habitat across the UK are being backed by Government funding as part of a pilot scheme to funnel more private sector investment into the natural environment.

The projects will receive funding and assistance to develop business plans with the aim of attracting additional private sector investment

The projects will receive funding and assistance to develop business plans with the aim of attracting additional private sector investment

Four projects focused on protecting and restoring natural habitat across the UK are being backed by Government funding as part of a pilot scheme to funnel more private sector investment into the natural environment.

Coordinated by Triodos Bank, Defra, the Environment Agency (EA), Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF), the new investment pilot aims to support environmental projects through new funding models supported by the private sector.

The Government committed £10m in the Budget to support natural environment projects and to attract extra investment from 2021, through the Natural Environment Impact Fund.

As a result, the Devon Wildlife Trust’s restoration of the Caen wetlands, the Rivers Trust’s natural flood management initiative in the Wyre catchment in Lancashire, the NFU’s work to reduce nitrate pollution in Poole Harbour and the Moors for the Future Partnership’s restoration and conservation of peatlands in the Pennines will all be backed by funding from Defra, the EA and the EEF.

The projects will receive funding and assistance to develop business plans with the aim of attracting additional private sector investment.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The UK is taking a leading global role in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, but given the scale of the challenge ahead it is crucial that environmental projects have the tools they need to attract private sector investment alongside our government support.

“Ensuring we have a green recovery from coronavirus will be especially important at this time, and this collaboration provides vital financial expertise and support to create funding models which can be used by other projects up and down the country.”

Covid-19 concern

Additionally, the Government and the Environment Agency have both reiterated a desire to ensure the nationwide recovery from the coronavirus is focused on tackling climate change.

However, nature and conservation charities have expressed concern that the Government's £750m aid package for charities will not be enough to stop the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak from stifling efforts to tackle climate change and protect nature over the coming years.

Charities including the RSPCA, the Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society have warned that while a welcome and necessary step to prioritise the health of the nation, the £750m coronavirus aid package announced by Government will not offset financial loses for select charities, which in turn will impact their abilities to deliver on key nature and climate initiatives.

Last summer, it was revealed that Government funding for bodies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency and National Parks had fallen steeply in recent years, leaving the UK at risk of failing to meet key green policy objectives.

These financial strains are leaving environmental enforcement bodies and charities unable to complete the inspections and prosecutions necessary for the UK to meet the ambitions of policies such as the 25-Year Environment Plan.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “In England, we are increasingly seeing new extreme weather accelerate from wettest to driest and back again, restoring nature is key to managing this. 

“You can’t put a price on nature, but investing in its recovery can generate a steady return and will make the UK economy more clean and resilient. These projects are designed to attract investment into local economies while developing models for businesses to use and scale up around the world.” 

In April, the Natural Capital Committee launched its advisory report to the UK Government on how nature-based solutions can assist with the net-zero ambition for 2050.

The report calls for a myriad of nature-based solutions to help capture and sequester carbon, but warned that mass tree planting could inadvertently harm other carbon stores like peatlands.

Matt Mace



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