A North Devon conservation project is set to spearhead a new approach to funding large-scale green initiatives.
A project based on the Caen Wetlands, close to the North Devon village of Braunton, led by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust, aims to restore a large wetland landscape which will help alleviate local flood risk, offer eco-tourism opportunities, create new habitat for wildlife and capture huge amounts of climate-changing carbon. The project is one of just four across the UK which have been selected to receive funding in a new pilot scheme to encourage sustainable private sector investment in the natural environment.
Defra, the Environment Agency (EA), Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF) and Triodos Bank UK have come together to support the four environmental projects. The aim of each project is to develop their own long-term sustainable funding models using private finance.
Having been sourced and evaluated by Triodos Bank UK the projects will receive grant funding from Defra, the EA and EFF to support their development, complete business plans to attract private sector investment, and deliver long-term environmental benefits and sustainable financial returns.
The four projects receiving funding are:
- Devon Wildlife Trust’s restoration of the Caen wetlands
- Rivers Trust’s work on natural flood management in the Wyre catchment in Lancashire
- NFU’s work to reduce nitrate pollution in Poole Harbour
- Moors for the Future Partnership’s restoration and conservation of peatlands in the Pennines.
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said:
“In England we are increasingly seeing new extreme weather accelerate from wettest to driest and back again, restoring nature is key to managing this.
“You can’t put a price on nature but investing in its recovery can generate a steady return and will make the UK economy cleaner and more resilient. These projects are designed to attract investment into local economies while developing models for businesses to use and scale up around the world.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“The UK is taking a leading global role in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, but given the scale of the challenge ahead it is crucial that environmental projects have the tools they need to attract private sector investment alongside our government support.
“Ensuring we have a green recovery from coronavirus will be especially important at this time, and this collaboration provides vital financial expertise and support to create funding models which can be used by other projects up and down the country.”
The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan made clear that while the public sector will continue to be an important source of funding for the natural environment, it is critical that this is alongside more private sector investment to protect and enhance our environment.
That is why the government committed £10m in the Budget to support natural environment projects to attract private sector investment through the Natural Environment Impact Fund, from 2021.
The government and the Environment Agency are also working to ensure that our recovery from coronavirus is clean and resilient, tackling climate change and boosting nature.
In order to help project developers up and down the country attract investment, the lessons learned from these projects will also be made freely available.
Caroline Mason, Chief Executive of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said:
“We need bold action and impact like never before when it comes to protecting our natural world. If the current crisis is to be successfully reversed, more money will be crucial. With these grants we hope to explore both the potential and the limits for generating revenue to deliver environmental outcomes. If we understand the models that can make money and can be funded through private capital, we can raise additional money for nature and make sure that public and philanthropic funding goes where it’s most needed.”
Dr Bevis Watts, Chief Executive of Triodos Bank UK, said:
“We have invested over two years of our resources and expertise into finding viable financial projects in this new area and were delighted to bring these partners together. We believe that connecting economic outcomes to investment in environmental restoration is possible and can deliver benefits, in terms of carbon storage, air quality, flood management and human health, as well as enhancing biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
“Triodos has always been a pioneer in sustainable finance, for example in early renewable energy and organic food & farming. Now linking the economic and societal benefits we take for granted from nature to investment in its restoration is a key challenge we are leading on. The finance sector needs to play its role and use more imagination in how economic outcomes can be linked to investment in nature. We hope we can build on these pilot projects and replicate them to secure further investment in addressing the environmental crises we face.”