A number of forward-looking nature projects are set to benefit from a new fund that promotes private investments in the environment and combats climate change.
Announced by Defra, the Environment Agency and Natural England, these include restoring kelp forests and creating new forests to improve water quality. These plans are among the 27 programs selected across England.
Organizations have been awarded up to 100,000 each under the groundbreaking 10 million Natural Environment Investment Preparedness Fund.
The funds are used to develop the projects to the point where they achieve a return on investment. They will do this by capturing the value of carbon, water quality, biodiversity and other benefits of natural goods. This includes forests, moors, catchment areas and landscapes.
Environmental associations, companies and local authorities were given financial support to develop projects to protect and improve nature. The projects must also identify innovative approaches to generating income from the multiple benefits of nature. The 4 local projects that will benefit from the Ready to Invest Fund are:
UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology (Essex) is awarded 99,931 for developing a Salt Marsh Code to aid habitat restoration in 4 locations in England. These include the RSPBs Old Hall Marshes in Maldon. The aim of the project is to develop a strict and scientifically sound voluntary certification standard for those who wish to market the climate benefits of salt marsh restoration.
The Norfolk Rivers Trust will receive 70,000 to fund wetlands using environmental bonds. It aims to reduce phosphates and other pollutants entering the Stiffkey River, thereby reducing the damage to biodiversity.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust receives 99,718 for the Wendling Beck Exemplar Project, which will convert farmland through river restoration, grassland and the creation of wetlands.
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust receives 100,000 for the Green Investment in Greater Lincolnshire. This establishes market procedures for trading in biodiversity, CO2 and water credits. These are generated through landscape-scale improvements to agricultural land by working with landowners to find nature-based solutions.
Revenue is generated through the sale of carbon and biodiversity units, natural benefits of flood management and reduced water treatment costs. In developing these revenue streams, the Fund will help create a pipeline of projects for the private sector to invest in. He will also develop new funding models that can be scaled and replicated elsewhere.
The funded projects focus on combating climate change and restoring nature through measures such as the creation of forests and habitats, the restoration of moors, sustainable drainage and the management of river basins.
Examples include the development of an emissions certificate model for salt marshes across England and the restoration of kelp forests off the Sussex coast. Other projects include creating woodland in North Yorkshire and restoring moors in Greater Manchester.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
In order to meet the environmental challenges that we face due to climate change and the loss of biodiversity, it is crucial that domestic conservation projects attract private investment in addition to supporting the public sector.
Unleashing innovation and finding new sources of funding, for example through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, are fundamental to restoring nature. We are also developing nature-based solutions to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Environment Agency Chairperson Emma Howard Boyd said:
With the right structure, near-natural projects can be scaled up through private funding to reduce emissions, prepare for climate shocks and create jobs.
From a new business model for multifunctional forestry in Yorkshire to an investment fund to convert farmland in Norfolk. These projects will prove financing models to make industries fit for the future, to reach net zero by 2050 and to create a nature-positive future.
COP26, coming to the UK this year, shows how investable proposals for nature-based solutions to the climate emergency can be created.
Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England said:
Restoring nature is essential to tackling climate change and supporting a strong, sustainable economy. Mobilizing private finance can go a long way in this, and NEIRF is one of the steps now needed to unleash that investment.
I am very pleased that Natural England is providing technical support for the fund. We help identify projects that will enable the public, private and nonprofit sectors to work together in true partnership to save nature and take action against climate change.
On behalf of Defra and the Treasury Department, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Access Foundation for Social Investment will support the projects. The knowledge gained will be available to the public to promote similar approaches to accessing private sector finance for nature projects in the future.
The Green Finance Institute (GFI) supported DEFRA and the Environment Agency during the introduction of the fund. This included leading a series of educational workshops for interested applicants and working as an external appraiser and consultant during the application and award process.
CEO of GFI Dr. Rhian-Mari Thomas said:
The latest Dasgupta Review highlighted the value of nature for our economy and society and the need to invest in nature-positive projects. The fund will accelerate private investments in nature, as well as the lessons learned from the successful applicants and their projects. We look forward to continuing to support this transformative initiative.
Subject to confirmation, the Environment Agency and Defra plan to start another round of applications this year.
We have legislated the UK’s sixth carbon budget since the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan was published. Propose a target that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 from 1990 levels.
We also encourage countries to join the UK’s call to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans in marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030, as announced at the UN General Assembly in September 2018. We were also the first major economy to establish a legally binding net zero greenhouse