Natural England: Written evidence submission to the Environmental Audit Select Committee: Biodiversity and Ecosystems Inquiry
As the Government’s advisor on the natural environment, Natural England’s purpose is to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced, and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, thereby contributing to sustainable development.
Executive summary: Nature recovery on a grand scale
Q1. How effective is the monitoring of biodiversity?
1.1 Overall, monitoring is of good quality albeit often at too fine a grain to provide more than a partial picture of the health of ecosystems and their component habitats and species. Some groups – such as invertebrates beyond butterflies and pollinators, for example – are not well represented in the national indicator series. Natural England is working with Defra to identify the data and mapping resources that will be needed in future to build a more comprehensive understanding of the natural environment and the effect of measures to improve it.
1.2 In England we have good information on the distribution and abundance of species that are included in structured surveillance schemes: birds, bats, butterflies, plants, seabirds and pollinators. We also have a large amount of valuable but unstructured data (species records) that have been gathered by volunteer recorders, either individually or as part of different recording schemes and societies. The State of Nature partnership brings together information on species to report on biodiversity. Natural England was a partner for the 2019 report.
1.3 Natural England monitors Protected Sites on land and sea. Terrestrial and freshwater sites are monitored through the condition assessment of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is done using information collected by Natural England staff, contractors and some of our partners. There is very little structured monitoring of habitat condition outside of Protected Sites. Some wider countryside monitoring is done by UKCEH through a reduced version of the Countryside Survey.
1.4 More intensive biodiversity data collection is carried out on a network of sites across England and UK through Natural England’s Long-term Monitoring Network (37 sites in England) and the Environmental Change Network (11 active sites in UK, 6 in England).
1.5 Natural England and Defra jointly deliver a programme of monitoring and evaluation of agri-environment schemes (Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship). This is a long-running and well-resourced programme. UKCEH carried out an evaluation of the government’s Biodiversity 2020 strategy, results from which are referred to below.
1.6 Overall, habitat mapping is incomplete and some of the data used are old and of uncertain quality. The level and continuity of investment in biodiversity evidence has also been a significant issue e.g. leaving data sets that do not easily combine.
Q2. How has the Government performed against the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and what further progress is needed?
2.1 In England we have not made enough progress on terrestrial biodiversity targets. Also confidence in the quality of our site assessment evidence is not ideal. We have made some gains in habitat creation and restoration but are unsure how much this has improved our overall biodiversity in England, noting the ongoing declines in species.
2.2 A UK level assessment of progress towards the Aichi targets, which included Natural England’s views, was submitted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2019. It concluded that the UK has made good progress towards some Aichi Targets, but there is still more progress required in other areas. The JNCC’s summary of areas where there is significant work to be done concludes:
2.3 In England, the Aichi targets have been progressed through Defra’s strategy - Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s Wildlife and Ecosystem services. An evaluation of Biodiversity 2020  was undertaken by CEH for Defra, and this includes a detailed assessment of the achievement against Biodiversity 2020 Outcomes. Taking all these sources, Natural England’s view of progress in England over the past decade is that:
2.3.1 We have maintained the area of terrestrial Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in favourable or recovering condition at around 95%, albeit based on incomplete monitoring.
2.3.2 We have made little progress in improving SSSIs, i.e. moving from recovering into favourable condition (38% by area in 2019).
2.3.3 Outside SSSIs, we have made some progress in getting priority habitats into favourable management (e.g. through Countryside Stewardship) though we have not met the ambitious target for 90% of priority habitat to be in favourable or recovering condition. 150,000 ha was restored or created by 2019, or brought into favourable management (30,000 ha of this total is represented by Arable Field Margins).
2.3.4 We have implemented successful species recovery ‘flagship’ projects, but the overall trend for important species’ groups remains concerning. England’s Biodiversity Indicator for breeding farmland birds shows a significant decline in the long term (1970-2015) and short term (2009-2015). Expert Taxon Groups have advised that 361 species are at high risk of being lost in England, with 161 of these listed as Priority Species. Some have already been lost from England, e.g. Golden Eagle. Similar trends can be seen in marine species groups.
2.3.5 Species groups showing long term declines also include woodland birds, butterflies, and the overall abundance of priority species.
2.3.6 There has been progress in restoring degraded ecosystems as a contribution to climate mitigation and adaptation but this remains insufficient to meet the 2020 target of 15% of ecosystems restored.
2.3.7 There has been significant progress in defining Marine Conservation Zones, and Protected Areas for seabirds and cetaceans. From a position of very little formal protection in 2010 we now have 40% of English waters designated. We now need to invest in monitoring, and implement conservation measures such as fishing bye-laws.
What further progress is needed?
2.4 The overall picture is a need for increased ambition and scale of nature recovery on the ground. We are reducing the loss but we are not recovering our precious nature. Natural England recommends focus on the following issues:
2.4.1 Establishing a national network of habitats that drives our nature recovery. We have not yet made sufficient progress towards the Lawton agenda. There is a technical consensus around the need for big core sites supported by a broad ecological network. We have not yet achieved a national network of sites that are bigger, better, more and joined. Restoring and creating 500,000 ha of habitat through a Network must be at the core of a national nature recovery programme.
2.4.2 We have not yet created enough of the big-scale, wilder, Nature Recovery Areas (NRAs) that convey tangible progress, capture the public’s imagination for wildlife, and re-establish ecological processes. National Parks and AONBs, which cover 25% of the land area of England, could initiate an ambitious programme of habitat restoration and creation. And the public estate remains a major source of large areas of land suitable for restoration. Private farms and estates are also interested in the NRA concept.
2.4.3 The species declines are of particular concern. If we are to halt further extinctions and secure an improvement in species’ status, we need an enhanced and higher profile programme of species reintroductions and recovery.
2.4.4 We recommend a further strengthening of programme delivery. The Biodiversity 2020 delivery arrangements comprise a national strategy, and then outcome targets supported by national-level governance arrangements. Currently, it lacks a local-level tier of formal implementation planning with partners. We need a clear national programme of nature recovery post-2020, and an integrated national and local framework translating national priorities into local action, through the Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs).
2.4.5 The new Land Management Scheme will be the main funding route for farmland conservation so it is vital that this works well and is of sufficient scale. The repatriated Common Agriculture Policy funding gives us a once in a lifetime chance to properly fund an Environmental Land Management Scheme of sufficient scale and focus.
2.4.6 We want more involvement of people in and benefiting from our conservation efforts, including a more inclusive agenda to get more people connected with and acting for the natural environment, spending time in nature. Social prescribing can also play an important role here. We need to invest in nature close to where people live, through accessible green infrastructure which will support species abundance and provide opportunities for people to engage with nature. The Nature Recovery Network should be an urban as well as a rural network.
2.4.7 We need to explore and test new approaches to conservation. In the right circumstances, wilding initiatives can provide a fast track to nature recovery and rebuilding ecosystems, and provide the space for iconic species re-introductions. We have the opportunity through the Nature for Climate fund to implement woodland planting and peat restoration schemes that sequester and store carbon and provide priority habitat. And Defra is developing a Nature Recovery Fund.
2.4.8 We need to make the most of the very significant opportunities provided by the Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries bills. Each of these Bills is providing significant opportunities for nature recovery, for example specific measures such as net gain. There are opportunities to make these Bills even better for nature as the Parliamentary debates continue and through the implementation plans (see also question 5).
2.4.9 Specific policies are needed to improve our freshwater and marine environments and reduce pressures on them (see also question 9).
2.5 Defra’s policies are already taking many of the steps described above, but we need to significantly increase the scale of ambition and investment to achieve our 25-Year Environment Plan aims for thriving plants and wildlife, and natural beauty, accessible to all sectors of society.
Q3.Where should the four nations prioritise resources to tackle biodiversity loss?
The four statutory nature organisations keep in close touch with each other and try to share information where appropriate. In addition the Joint Nature Conservation Committee has a UK wide remit and they play a vital role in ensuring that there is consistency in things like SSSI and marine designations for example.
Q4. How should the Environmental Land Management scheme maintain and improve biodiversity? What role might alternative land use play in delivering improvements to biodiversity under the ELM scheme? Funding for an effective programme of nature recovery needs to be significantly higher than levels over the last decade.
The new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will be the most significant public funding source for nature recovery. It needs to be sufficient in scale (making the most of repatriated funds); designed well for biodiversity and other environmental outcomes; and easy to use. It needs to get the right balance between the different tiers. It will be important that the public payment for public goods policy which underpins ELMs is not weakened, such that the budget neither subsidises the provision of private goods, nor pays for deadweight. We believe it will be important to implement the higher tiers of the new scheme as soon as possible.
Q5. How effective are the new measures to enhance biodiversity within the Environment Bill, particularly biodiversity net gain and Nature Recovery Networks? Do these measures complement existing regulatory frameworks and address issues surrounding how to value nature?
5.1 The Environment Bill has the potential to lead the transformation of conservation practice in England towards a new phase of nature recovery through the introduction of a number of new tools. Local Nature Recovery Strategies will map local priorities for habitat creation or enhancement, informed by national habitat mapping, and should combine to form a coherent national Nature Recovery Network, the foundations of a healthy and resilient environmental system. The establishment of a national network will play a central role in the delivery of the long-term targets for biodiversity established by the bill and a mechanism is needed to ensure that this scale of ambition is reflected in individual LNRSs.
5.2 Natural England welcomes the proposal to introduce a mandatory minimum 10% Biodiversity Net Gain requirement for all bar exempted developments under the Town and Country Planning Act. We welcome the requirement to use the Biodiversity metric to measure baselines and predicted biodiversity losses and gains.
PINS were forecasting 30 NSIP schemes for 2020/2021 up from just over 15 in 2014/2015
5.3 Natural England would like to see the net gain requirement also apply to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) , which could make a big contribution to net gain on the ground, and would treat all private sector developments on the same basis rather than exempting the major projects.
5.4 Natural England welcomes the provision of conservation covenants in the Bill as a new means to secure lasting conservation outcomes.
5.5 Natural England believes the adoption of official targets for nature recovery will be an important driver for future progress. The targets will need to be achievable, but also ambitious. Such targets will be an important context for the integration of the different tools that will be needed to achieve the goals of the Nature Recovery Network, including ELMS, Net Gain, peat and tree strategies, the existing protected areas, new planning codes and some of the resources that will be deployed to advance Nature Based Solutions, such as reducing flood risk. If these different tools are combined they will achieve much more than each on its own. The Nature Recovery Network, backed by clear targets, will be very important in enabling this to work, including, crucially, via the participation of a range of partners including farmers, private sector companies, NGOs and official agencies.
Q6. How should Nature Recovery Networks be planned, funded and delivered?
6.1 England’s Nature Recovery Network (NRN) will be planned and delivered locally within a national framework. The LNRSs will eventually cover the whole of England and provide a key mechanism for identifying spatial priorities for nature and investment needed. A national framework, with guidance, is being developed to ensure that local contributions to the NRN add up to a coherent whole; allowing progress to be monitored, reported and evaluated. A mechanism to engage stakeholders properly in LNRS design is important.
6.2 It is vital that LNRSs are aligned with land use planning. LNRSs will provide an important evidence base to inform local plans and opportunities for creating or restoring habitat should be included in local plans as ‘areas for environmental improvement’. This would translate nature recovery aspirations into a statutory document with, importantly, a responsibility on local authorities to deliver. Natural England would be keen to see these changes introduced for the existing or any future local planning regime that results from the Planning White Paper.
6.3 The national NRN partnership has a clearly defined role including advising, setting standards, supporting and facilitating contributions to the NRN. The new Nature Strategy will set out our ambitions for the scale of creation and restoration of habitats and species through the Nature Recovery Network. There will need to be a step change in funding, and it will need to be consistent over the long term. There are a range of existing Government funding opportunities in addition to ELMS and net gain, e.g. the Nature for Climate fund, Green Recovery Challenge Fund, etc. The scale of the task is such that a blended financing approach is needed where Government and non-government funding is combined and works in a complementary way. The recent partnership with National Lottery Heritage and Community Funds on the Green Recovery Challenge Fund is very welcome and could provide a future model amongst others for future more ambitious joint funding of schemes. Nature-based solutions as part of the delivery of Government’s ambitions have a significant role to play (see also response to question 16).
6.4 The Biodiversity 2020 strategy struggled to translate Government targets to the local level. The Local Nature Recovery Strategies can help this. Implementing delivery will require a new way of working supported by the National Delivery Partnership. It will also require an increase in capacity and capability in local planning authorities, including Local Biological Record Centres.
6.5 Protected landscapes (i.e. National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) need support to fulfil their potential role as the ‘backbone’ of the Nature Recovery Network. This could include national targets for nature recovery, landscape quality and natural beauty across the network of designations and build on initiatives such as the AONBs’ Colchester Declaration of commitments for the natural environment. Designations of various types can work together to support nature recovery, landscape character and natural beauty. The Nature Recovery Network could be a key focus here by delivering a continuum of distinctive landscapes and nature-rich experiences, stretching from doorstep to National Park, with a full range of opportunities for people to enjoy nature and to enhance their physical health and mental well-being.
6.6 Natural England anticipates increasingly integrating our policy tools, such as ELMs and net gain, through the joined up use of our roles as Government advisor on Nature, our regulatory powers and duties and via delivery of government policy, such as agri-environment schemes.
Q7. How effective are other policies for conservation and enhancement of existing natural habitats, such as the Woodland Grant Schemes?
7.1 Current incentives have been slow to increase the area of woodland in England. There are a number of reasons for this. For example, the fact that woodland is not eligible for the Basic Payments Scheme. Some farmers in areas suitable for tree planting do not see woodland as a critical component of their business. The England Tree Planting Programme aims to improve the incentive offer to land owners but also to work through a range of partners such as NGOs and Community Forests to improve the engagement with and advice available to land managers.
7.2 Work on the England Peat Strategy is advanced and peatland restoration measures are being planned through the Nature for Climate Fund with a target of 35,000 ha to be restored over 5 years. Aligning the Peatland and Woodland Strategies is essential to ensure the maximum benefits are secured from both in tackling the twin challenges of climate change and nature recovery and that local action for peatland and woodland is complementary.
Q8. How can policy be better integrated to address climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development.
8.1 Biodiversity decline, climate change and sustainable development are all fundamentally related. Nature loss and climate change are two sides of the same coin. Without action to limit global heating nature loss will become worse, and without restoring nature (including peatlands and woodlands) it will not be possible to achieve a 2 degree warming limit. Linking action for climate change and nature recovery also benefits climate change adaptation. There has been a growing recognition of the potential benefits of integrated approaches. For example Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures can restore natural functions, increase infiltration of rainwater, slow flood flows and store flood waters upstream. NFM measures can make a valuable contribution to flood prevention in conjunction with traditional, engineered defences, while also delivering biodiversity benefits. We need the flood and coastal risk management programme and the development of the Nature Recovery Network to work together to identify mutually-beneficial opportunities for changes in land use or management that can restore habitats and natural process, and in so doing increase infiltration and slow flood water flows. We welcome the recent Environment Agency strategy.
8.2 The land use planning system needs to be integrated with land management policy. For example, housing development around the Solent creates increased nutrient loads and damages protected sites designated for their coastal habitats and birds. Removing some intensively farmed land from production may need to be part of the solution to facilitate and speed development. Land use planning policy is critical in supporting nature recovery.
Q9. How can biodiversity and ecosystems help achieve the air, soil and water quality objectives in the 25 Year Environment Plan?
9.1 Nitrogen oxides (NOx) from combustion sources and ammonia (NH3), largely from agriculture, are now the most significant emissions causing damage to biodiversity and ecosystems in England. Around 95% of the area of sensitive habitat in England receives levels of nitrogen deposition above the ‘critical loads’ for the protection of ecosystems from nitrogen deposition. Progress towards national biodiversity strategies and other biodiversity commitments is currently compromised through continued nitrogen deposition.
9.2 The Government’s Clean Air Strategy (2019) includes a commitment to reduce damaging deposition of reactive forms of nitrogen by 17% over England’s protected priority sensitive habitats by 2030 and review what longer term targets should be. The strategy acknowledges that some vulnerable habitats will remain exposed to damaging levels of atmospheric ammonia and nitrogen deposition. Action is needed to tackle ammonia emissions at the local as well as national level in order to deliver nature objectives. The Strategy proposes: requiring farmers to make investments in farm infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions; extending environmental permitting to the dairy and intensive beef sectors; and regulation to minimise pollution from fertiliser use.
9.3 Diffuse pollution is one of the biggest issues affecting our freshwater habitats. Working at the catchment level to tackle diffuse pollution can deliver a range of other biodiversity and natural capital outcomes such as flood risk management. Currently significant areas of SSSI remain in unfavourable condition due to diffuse water pollution. Measures in Defra’s River Basin Management Plan are an important route to secure commitment to meet the 25 Year Plan targets for good status in our freshwaters. There is a big gap in achievement to date compared with the targets for 2027.
9.4 Agricultural incentives and advice helps reduce agricultural emissions to water. The future ELM scheme and related advice will have an important role to play in future water quality improvements. There is now strong evidence that significantly greater enforcement of existing farming regulations for water is needed. This may require land use change in some catchments.
Q10. How well is the UK addressing biodiversity loss in its Overseas Territories and in international development partnerships with other countries?
Overseas Territory issues are dealt with by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Q11. What outcomes and protection should the UK government be pushing for at the forthcoming international negotiations.
11.1 The Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned in its global assessment of biodiversity in 2019 that the majority of biodiversity indicators were showing rapid decline.
8 - IPBES (2019): Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.
11.2 We recommend the government supports quantifiable targets for restoring ecosystems and achieving by 2030 a net increase in area, connectivity and integrity of wildlife areas. We note the current interest in the Zero Draft proposal for a ‘30x30’ target, i.e. Protected Areas or Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) across 30 percent of land and seas by 2030.
11.3 A 30x30 target could be achieved easily in England, but, it would not mean that all this area was wildlife-rich habitat and important for biodiversity, or was being protected or under effective conservations measures. At sea, we already have this area protected though a significant proportion is for single species (e.g. harbour porpoise) or bird foraging areas, as opposed to wider site or habitat protection.
11.4 Natural England suggests an approach that includes restoring wildlife-rich habitat through effective conservation measures on land and at sea and creating significant new areas through the Nature Recovery Network. There are currently just over 3 million hectares on land that could contribute to a target based on habitat rather than high-level designation boundaries. Some 1.4 million hectares of this is inside National Parks and AONBs so Designated Landscapes could make an important contribution. There is a gap of 900,000 ha but the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan contains a commitment to restoring or creating much of this (500,000 ha of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected sites by 2030).
Economics and biodiversity
Q12. What are the possible approaches to balancing economic growth and conservation of nature and its contributions? Is there evidence these approaches work and can be implemented?
Natural England believes it is possible to achieve genuinely sustainable development but this needs to be supported by policy. That policy needs to go beyond the frame of ‘balance’, and embrace far stronger ‘integration’. Examples of current practice include:
12.1 Land use policies which set out clear, sequential steps to test whether a development proposal is acceptable. The Habitats Regulations have been a key tool, allowing most developments to take place close to or within Natura 2000 sites but ensuring that impacts and risks are acceptable, and that the design of projects minimises impact and if possible delivers net gain. The wording of the National Planning Policy Framework, encouraging biodiversity protection and recovery, is also critical.
12.2 Effective city planning which designs-in high quality, accessible green infrastructure close to where people live.
12.3 Road infrastructure which has high quality design guidance and funding for biodiversity recovery. Road verges cover large areas and are excellent habitats for wildlife and nature corridors.
12.4 Projects which deliver critical social benefits through engagement with nature, e.g. nature friendly schools; Care farming; social prescribing. Natural England can provide more detail on these.
12.5 Farming incentives which support the integration of nature into farm businesses and deliver our food needs alongside biodiversity recovery.
12.6 Water company catchments initiatives which deliver clean water supplies through catchment management, delivering biodiversity and climate mitigation benefits.
12.7 Duties on public bodies which encourage recovery of biodiversity alongside the public bodies’ core operations.
Q13. What does the UK Government need to do to maximise human prosperity – in terms of health, economic, and social wellbeing—within the ecological and resource constraints of a finite planet? What alternative models and measures of economic welfare can feasibly help achieve this?
Economic planning needs to move away from a focus on GDP to a broader approach based on a wider set of social outcomes such as health, well-being, etc. The 25 Year Plan points to innovative programmes which Defra are progressing with Natural England such as social prescribing and nature friendly schools. The environment has a high value for its preventative functions/benefits – e.g. health or flooding. We tend to focus on the costs of remediation. A healthy environment can reduce remediation costs whilst also adding to the quality of life. This is not to say that ‘growth’ would cease, but that the measurement of growth would include other indicators beyond GDP, for example the state of the natural environment and carbon and resource efficiency, all in the context of social indicators.
Pairing nature-based solutions to climate change with biodiversity
Q14. Which nature-based solutions are most effective in achieving both climate and biodiversity goals?
14.1 Nature-based solutions offer the potential for making a critical contribution to both Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions and nature recovery and at the same time as providing a range of other benefits for people and nature. Nature-based solutions can make a measurable contribution to carbon capture and deliver Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved by large-scale semi-natural habitat restoration, with a focus on creation of native woodland, peatland restoration and restoration of high-carbon (storage) coastal and marine habitats. The Climate Change Committee has recommended targets that focus on nature-based solutions – principally habitat restoration – to support climate change mitigation and adaptation, including:
14.1.1 Ending management burning and restoring at least 50 per cent of upland peat and 25 per cent of lowland peat to reduce emissions; and managing lowland agriculture on peatlands to reduce carbon loss.
14.1.2 Increasing UK forestry woodland cover from 13 per cent to at least 17 per cent by 2050 by planting 30,000 hectares or more of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year.
14.1.3 Nature-based solutions to reduce risks to people from climate change such as natural flood management and urban cooling from green infrastructure.
14.1.4 Building resilience of the natural environment by restoring natural ecosystem function and habitat expansion, increasing both size and connectivity of patches.
14.1.5 Adapting site conservation objectives (SSSIs) and management techniques to adjust to inevitable changes.
14.2 We should plan in these opportunities as we develop the Nature Recovery Network.
Q15. What would constitute clear indicators of progress and cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions and how should trade-offs and co-benefits associated with nature-based solutions, biodiversity and socioeconomic outcomes be considered?
15.1 We should develop a definition of favourable condition at a landscape scale. We need a broader framework of indicators than for SSSIs, which should enable us to evaluate and restore system health. Natural England has developed Natural Capital Indicators: for defining and measuring change in natural capital - NERR076 which relate to a wide range of nature-based solutions, e.g. for climate regulation, flood protection, water quality, air quality, human well-being benefits (from cultural ecosystem services). Indicators are identified for 17 ecosystem services (including biodiversity or “maintenance of nursery populations and habitats”) across 8 broad habitats. The development of indicators across a wide range of ecosystem services, enables the consideration of co-benefits and trade-offs between different Nature-based solutions. Developing indicators for nature-based solutions is challenging because our knowledge of ecosystem function is incomplete. The natural capital indicators have been identified based on the expert opinion of nearly 90 specialists in Natural England and the Environment Agency. The available evidence underpinning them has been captured through a literature review undertaken by York University.
Q16. How can funding be mobilised to support effective nature-based solutions to climate change? How can the private sector be encouraged to contribute to funding?
16.1 Direct funding for climate change and biodiversity are still largely provided through public sources as they represent public goods, except where there may be risks to private organisations either through supply chain, reputation or adherence to regulatory requirements. There is more scope to fund nature based solutions for climate change and biodiversity.
16.2 The total amount of funding needs to be increased very considerably future public funding should consider nature based solutions where practical (with the ambition of projects achieving a positive contribution to reduce climate change impacts and biodiversity loss). The increased finance required should be seen as an investment that will secure a range of economically valuable returns, rather than as now when such spending is often regarded as an unaffordable cost. More research is needed to understand the effectiveness of nature based solutions to provide certainty and improve quantification of the benefits to provide investors with the confidence to prioritise NBS over traditional solutions.
16.3 The environment bill recognises the need to increase funding from private as well as
public sources. Blending funding to support delivery locally with national oversight, for
example through the development of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, and the creation of
a Nature Recovery Network, is welcomed. Practical challenges include the large number of
potential contributors, current lack of oversight and evaluation and potentially the ability to
demonstrate return on investment for private sector funders. Effective join up across a
range of strategies such as local industrial strategies, planning, health etc. is required to
produce a locally coherent delivery plan that enables and encourages funding contributions
to be mobilised with clearly articulated benefits.
Q17. How can Private sector be encouraged to contribute to funding?
17.1 Experience over the past decade in trying to increase investment using payment for ecosystem services, investment in green bonds, or philanthropic giving have had a limited impact. This requires new, smarter regulations and policy with tangible property rights, market type instruments to generate benefit and risk mitigation for investors.
17.2 Funding through Corporate Social Responsibility could be increased through improved governance processes. Mechanisms such as green bonds or philanthropic giving exist but the ability for the investor to gain recognition for their contribution is hampered by limited evaluation and reporting.
17.3 Natural England could play an important role in helping to create and accredit financial structures that could attract private sector money, for example creating strategic frameworks that could combine carbon offset money from a range of companies to ensure that such funds are deployed to the best possible effect, including through the delivery of a multi-purpose Nature Recovery Network. We would welcome further opportunities to work with Defra and Treasury in the design of such structures.
 Lawton, J.H., Brotherton, P.N.M., Brown, V.K., Elphick, C., Fitter, A.H., Forshaw, J., Haddow, R.W., Hilborne, S., Leafe, R.N., Mace, G.M., Southgate, M.P., Sutherland, W.J., Tew, T.E., Varley, J., & Wynne, G.R. (2010). Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network. Report to Defra.
 IPBES (2019): Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.