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Natural Capital

For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘Natural Capital’ refers to the world’s stock of natural assets - animal, plant, marine biodiversity, soil, air and water.

Key legislation which defines this area includes

  • 2008: the Climate Change Act
  • 2018: the Government’s 25-year environmental plan (‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’)
  • 2020: Agriculture Act
  • 2021: the Environment Act.

Environmental improvement is now incorporated across every area of government policy making and will impact every organisation in the property sector - whether they are involved in development, commercial, residential lettings or infrastructure projects. It also adds significant pressure on all responsible organisations - encouraging them to account for their impact on the environment.

As a result, there is increasing demand for nature-based solutions, as businesses seek to mitigate or compensate for environmental externalities of economic activities. Some of these initiatives driven by regulation, while others are undertaken voluntarily by organisations to compensate for the impact of their operations on the environment and as a demonstration of their commitment to sustainability - to their customers and stakeholders.

Nature Based solutions involve initiatives which protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems.
Our experienced team of Natural Capital specialists understand:

  • The regulatory and voluntary drivers for investment in natural capital
  • The policy landscape for natural capital services and its wider implications for the rural and property sector - having advised providers of Natural Capital solutions (landowners and farmers) for almost 200 years
  • Organisations’ strategic imperatives when seeking to mitigate their environmental impact
  • How to develop successful tailored programmes which meet clients’ specific objectives.

Our Team’s expertise lies in its ability to

  • Advise: providing insights into relevant Natural Capital markets and how they operate
  • Recommend: determine which are the most appropriate options and partners for mitigating offsets
  • Deliver: help negotiate optimum terms for offset acquisition to meet identified Natural Capital objectives.

For the landowner and farming community, there are multiple sources of public or quasi-public funding to deliver improved environmental outcomes from agriculture, forestry and wider land management such as:

  • Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)
  • Countryside Stewardship (CSS)
  • Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS)
  • England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO).

However, demand from the private sector for Natural Capital ‘ecosystem services’ is fast emerging as a complementary source of revenue which many believe will grow exponentially over the next few years, as commercial and non-commercial organisations seek offsetting strategies to compensate for natural capital degradation (as a result of their activities).

To date three distinct private markets have emerged:

  • Biodiversity offsetting - expected to be mandatory across England by January 2024, but is already required in a number of local authorities – to ensure compliance with the Town and Country Planning Act
  • Carbon offsetting - particularly relevant to organisations and individuals with environmental and ESG objectives to meet
  • Nutrient offsetting - as a result of Natural England identifying 74 catchment sensitive locations where development must not increase the nutrient burden on water courses.

This is only the beginning. Further ecosystem services, such as the provision of land for flood mitigation, air quality, or provision of public access for green prescribing are already being explored.

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