Despite an acknowledgement that markets for carbon, biodiversity and other environmental services will grow over the coming years, there remains uncertainty around how they will operate due to their infancy.
To help address these concerns, the Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN), a UK-wide independent knowledge hub, is undertaking a review to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with nature finance.
The review will include a survey and consultation and is planned to be held annually, aiming to provide a UK-wide view of nature finance enterprises and to help nature projects.
The term ‘nature finance’ describes the emerging opportunities for those who look after land, water and nature to attract new sources of revenue and investment from these markets and other private sources, said Henry Crabb, nature-based finance specialist at EKN.
“Currently, we have little idea of the growth of projects engaged in nature finance,” he explained. “In what some call the ‘wild west’, there are clearly opportunities, but their procurement has been unclear and projects are often working in isolation beyond national grant support.”
However, with mandatory requirements for nutrient neutrality and biodiversity net gain, the ‘stacking’ of saleable ecosystem services is now attainable, said Mr Crabb. “At least 70 investment readiness [capacity of an enterprise to understand and meet the specific needs and expectations of investors] projects are already underway across England, with numerous others 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.”
EKN will be carrying out a campaign from the 12th to the 10th of February, comprising a 5-10 minute survey that will cover the types of revenue streams under consideration, as well as the steps taken towards investment readiness and the sort of organisations involved.
As well as this, there will be consultations with the public, as well as philanthropic, third and voluntary sectors and community-based initiatives. A report will then be published in April.
“We need to figure out the challenges and gaps and help prospective and existing projects to understand the opportunities,” said Mr Crabb. “There has been so much uncertainty concerning the Environmental Land Management scheme. Some farmers are not engaging until they have clarity, but others are acting and benefiting in areas like nutrient mitigation, biodiversity net gain and carbon storage. And we are ready to help champion what they are doing.”
Those interested can access the survey at www.ecosystemsknowledge.net