Readers of Land & Business will be all too familiar with the constant push for large scale ‘recovery’ of nature throughout these islands. From bitterns to bumblebees, nature is what everyone wants (and needs) in abundance, we are told.
CLA members rightly ask what this means for them. Funding to support the ambitions is, naturally, the hot issue. If government and others grip ever more tightly the handlebars of taxpayer and philanthropic funding to achieve their nature recovery mission, the nature recovery journey will be uphill. After all, the Green Finance Institute has highlighted nature funding gaps worth tens of billions of pounds. The question is whether private finance can get in the saddle and enable the stewards of land, water and nature to deliver on the goals in ways that are bigger, better and more joined up.
From natural climate solutions to green infrastructure, and from biodiversity to carbon, there are supposedly billions of pounds sleuthing for opportunities to deploy cash. On top of an ever-growing quest for ESG and CSR credentials, businesses are looking for ways to account for nature-related risk and dependencies in their supply chains. With mandatory requirements for nutrient neutrality and biodiversity net gain, the once mythical 'stacking' of saleable ecosystem services is now attainable. Indeed, at least 70 investment readiness projects are already underway across England, as well as numerous other projects elsewhere across the UK. They are all looking for ways to harness opportunities for revenue and investment.
The endeavour could drive a thriving new dimension of rural enterprise, delivering on the promise of nature-borne triple-win outcomes for business, communities, and climate. The problem is that, at present, we have little idea of the growth of these markets. In what some call the 'wild west', there are clearly opportunities to be won, but their procurement has been unclear and projects are often working in isolation. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN) – a charitable initiative that was initiated by Defra – is stepping in to secure this insight and build collective knowhow.
The Network is calling for all place-based projects in the UK that are seeking to utilise nature-based finance, to complete an anonymous 5-minute-long survey. The aim is to help land managers - and those wishing to support them - to understand the opportunities, enablers and challenges faced when generating revenue for environmental restoration. This will be the first Nature-Based Finance Review of many that will track the yearly progress of nature-based finance as it bucks into the mainstream.
EKN is pleased to be hosting the UK's fifth Natural Capital Finance & Investment Conference. This will - crucially - bring together the stewards of land, water and nature with those in big business and financial services, connecting the dots between natural and private capital. For, communication is key to growing nature-based finance. In building trusted partnerships with mutual understanding and informed dialogue, we may well share nature's abundance and deliver on our shared goals and opportunities.