Professor Dieter Helm, one of the world’s foremost experts in Natural Capital and the former chair of the Governments Natural Capital Committee recently wrote an article published in British Wildlife (Vol 33, No, 8, Aug 2022) entitled “Paying for nature”.
In this article he notes that the Government’s recent annual target of £500m of private finance to fund Nature Recovery is only a small amount, and if this is not supported by a coherent land-use strategy and framework, it will be poorly targeted and unlikely to produce the desired carbon reduction and biodiversity enhancement outcomes. His conclusion is “the Nature Recovery Fund is a very expensive way of achieving very little”.
The article goes on to explore what should be done to offset carbon and improve biodiversity and reaches very similar conclusions to the BioCap model.
Dieter calls for a balanced approach to food production, carbon capture and storage, and biodiversity improvements – a land use strategy and plan. BioCap is working with local partners to develop a regional land-use spatial plan that will highlight where best to target the use of Natural Solutions within West Berkshire. Much of the initial mapping work has already been completed.
Dieter makes an excellent case for river catchments to e the key land units/areas for which spatial plans could be developed. BioCap agrees that this would be ideal but the fact that catchments span local authority and other important boundaries should not be ignored. This cross-boundary issue could introduce the need to involve multiple partners in agreeing funding, strategy and implementation plans. This introduces a huge systemic delay into achieving any meaningful outputs. BioCap believes plans should be developed for the area/region covered by a planning authority. Within these regional plans the importance of catchments will be recognized by the professionals involved and river corridors will immediately standout in any mapping of key sites or biodiversity opportunity areas. This regional approach allows the channeling of funds and agreement of working methodologies and process to implement work in the countryside.
Dieter then goes on to state that with a regional spatial plan in place investors in carbon and/or biodiversity will know that their money is going to create the maximum possible total natural capital gains. This is exactly what BioCap was founded two years ago to do and has been working on with partners in West Berkshire. If it works here, it can be exported to other regions.
BioCap believes that a regional approach ensures compliance and monitoring of projects is robust because local partners will have an interest in the work. Additionally, a regional plan can also be used to raise awareness and gain the involvement of the local community of residents, businesses, and landowners. This creates a meaningful collaborative approach to global issues at a local level.
Both BioCap and Dieter Helm agree that the “opportunity is massive, and if missed much more renewable natural capital will be lost.” However, since Dieter wrote his article a new Government is in place and there is a real worry that all this progress may get scrapped and the opportunity will be missed.