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Climate change blog - delivering local nature recovery

Delivering Local Nature Recovery: A coordinated, practical approach to tackling the biodiversity and climate crisis

In this blog, Penny Borton provides an overview of the recent workshop delivered by Jacobs at the Autumn Conference.

Having reflected on the ‘delivering local nature recovery’ workshop at the ADEPT Autumn Conference last month, I’ve tried to capture the energy and passion in the room, while providing a realistic account of perceived challenges and what we need to do next.

I won’t recount the session's content in its entirety, but we began with an overview of Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) requirements and key challenges to their delivery. In my opinion, the key challenge is the lack of distinct funds for delivering LNRS outcomes, as opposed to developing the LNRS in the first instance. Guidance points Responsible Authorities to two key mechanisms of delivery, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and the Biodiversity Duty on public authorities. However, my sense (which proved correct on the day) was that overstretched and underfunded local authorities feel this is another challenging ask to add to the existing pile, albeit a very worthy one.

Collectively, we then discussed public, private and blended finance opportunities to support the delivery of the LNRS outcomes - this is where the conversation really ramped up.

There was an agreement that while public funding opportunities are significant, so are the burdens associated with the application process. We all appreciate that funds must be allocated to those opportunities which will deliver the greatest benefits, but there is a lack of insight into available monies and associated timescales for responses.

In relation to private finance, I provided an anonymised local authority example of how nature markets can not only deliver LNRS outcomes but can generate revenue, beyond typical land value, inclusive of the potential for ‘stacking’ of some benefits, including BNG, nutrient neutrality and carbon credits. This garnered a lot of interest, particularly as many authorities are looking to sell assets, in response to Section 114 notices. While this makes a lot of sense, particularly to meet short-term gaps in funds, I challenged the audience to consider longer term approaches, and how this could result in better financial outcomes, over say, a 30-year period.

So, what was the response in the room?

The level of engagement demonstrated a lot of interest in the approach outlined, particularly the concept of seeing nature as an asset instead of a liability. The varying levels of maturity between local authorities was evident. Authorities at the start of their journey (the majority) highlighted that there is a collective need for the sharing of knowledge and lessons learned, particularly from those who have developed Habitat Banking Vehicles, for this specific purpose, for example. This sentiment was echoed by representation from Natural England.

There was the broad acknowledgment that a ‘one size fits all’ approach may not be suitable, with the audience being surprised to hear the range in demand (and monetary value) of BNG units, for example. There were, of course, some hesitations, particularly about the duration such habitats must be managed for (and by whom). Likewise, there were queries surrounding the timing of payments for the sale of BNG units, for example, with the acknowledgement that lump sum, staged, or result based payments would need to be balanced against ongoing management costs.  

In addition to revenue generation, the group discussed the potential for habitat restoration and creation opportunities to not only deliver LNRS outcomes, but to result in cost savings relating to an authority’s own offset requirements. Such opportunities relate to net zero carbon targets and BNG requirements, noting the importance of not double counting. For example, BNG units could be ‘banked’ for use on future development projects. Such units, if created ahead of a defined need and in areas of ‘strategic significance’ (such as those outlined in a LNRS) could result in an uplift of BNG units, resulting in resource efficiencies.

The thinking outlined here extends beyond housing development to broader infrastructure and wider infrastructure promoters, outside of a local authority. As a result, the mechanisms to facilitate the delivery of LNRS outcomes are significant. Such mechanisms should be considered when developing LNRS over the next 18 months, to support efficient and timely delivery of future LNRS outcomes, as part of a revised business-as-usual approach.

In summary, the take-home messages were as follows:

  • Insight into public finance opportunities needs to improve, with reduced application burdens, where possible.
  • Local authorities must be supported in decision making regarding land assets and the best approaches for nature and value generation.
  • There is a need for a Local Authority Knowledge Sharing Platform, relating to the broader mechanisms of LNRS delivery, such as habitat banking etc.
  • When considering LNRS development over the next 18 months, thought should be given to deliverability, with mechanisms incorporated within business-as-usual approaches, as soon as possible.

If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact me (via ADEPT), I would be more than happy to talk.


Penelope Borton, CEnv, MIEMA, MEnvSci, Natural Capital Lead at Jacobs

Chair of IEMA’s Biodiversity and Natural Capital Steering Group


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