Report: UK must invest additional £97bn in nature within a decade, to meet own targets

Scientists at London's Natural History Museum believe the UK is suffering from greater levels of biodiversity loss than most other major economies 

That is according to anew report commissioned by the Green Finance Institute (GFI) and published today (12 October).

Entitled ‘The Finance Gap for UK Nature’, the report lays bare historic under-funding across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the UK’s overseas territories before assessing how much spending is planned in the coming years, from governments and the private and public sectors.

Financing aiming to improve water cleanliness and access; protect and restor biodiversity; reduce flood risk; improve resource efficiency; mitigate climate change; enhance biosecurity and to improve access to nature was accounting for. Also covered was finance allocated with the aim of furthering two or more of these causes.

Planned levels of financing are then compared with those believed sufficient to deliver the aims of the 25-Year Environment Plan for England and the equivalent for other countries.

Planned spending for 2022-2032, the report states, is currently up to £97bn short of the levels needed to deliver commitments from the UK Government and devolved governments. Even in the best-case scenario, an additional £44bn would be needed during the decade. The GFI has made a central estimate of £56bn.

The funding gap was found to be larger in England (£21-53bn) than the other nations assessed. It was smallest for the UK’s overseas territories (£200m-£1.4bn).

“Having identified the scale of investment needed, and where it is needed, we must now focus on unlocking barriers to the mobilisation of private finance into nature-positive projects and businesses right across the UK,” said the GFI’s chief executive Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas.

The Institute’s head of nature programmes Helen Avery added that it will be “looking to work with the UK finance sector in addition to other key stakeholders to identify the barriers to private capital for priority nature-positive outcomes, and to develop practical solutions to support the growth of investment in nature in the UK.”

UN meeting

The report’s publication coincides with the first part of the UN’s 15th Convention on Biological Diversity, which began in a virtual format on Monday (11 October) ahead of an in-person meeting next spring. At this meeting, world leaders will discuss a new global framework for halting and reversing nature loss, after nations failed to deliver the previous Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The UN’s draft framework is headlined by an ambition to halt biodiversity loss by 2030. It has come under much scrutiny, from scientists, NGOs and the private sector, with multiple calls for more ambitious targets.

These calls to action are likely to continue throughout the week.

Also out this week is a major new tool from London’s Natural History Museum, which enables users to track biodiversity loss over time in different regions. The ‘Biodiversity Trends Explorer’ shows data since 2000 and predictions through to 2050.

For the UK, the tool reveals that the UK has an average of just 53% of its native wildlife intact, putting it in the bottom 10% of the world’s countries. Unless the UK addresses this issue rapidly, it will likely rely on increased imports in the years to come, resulting in even more offshoring of negative impacts on nature.

Sarah George

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