News Round-Up

Landowners critical to tackling UK’s environmental crisis

Landowners across all sectors have a critical role to play in the UK’s environmental recovery today, despite delays to the Environment Bill. This is according to a new report released by ecological planning consultancy EPR (Ecological Planning and Research) Ltd, which calls for landowners across all sectors to look at the environmental and financial opportunities current and new legislation presents for their land.

As Covid-19 continues to create uncertainty for many estate-based businesses, the opportunity to improve the environment whilst generating additional, predictable income streams must not be ignored. Meanwhile, the business case for agricultural landowners has already begun to shift in favour of the environment thanks to a new, broader definition of farming that embraces ‘public goods’ that includes the cultivation of a healthy environment.

Despite delays in promised environmental legislation, there are several incentives and schemes open to landowners seeking to deliver positive nature-based changes now. However, the present lack of take-up demonstrates that the complexities around these incentives is proving a roadblock, and is compounded by a reticence to commit before the government provides clarity on the Environment Bill and Environmental Land Management scheme.

In response to this clear need for clarity, in ‘A Business Case for Cultivating Natural Capital’, EPR outlines the business and environmental case for natural assets, the opportunities available, and advises landowners across all sectors on the steps they can take now to deliver lasting gains for our environment through their estate. The report also sets out examples for where multiple schemes can be leveraged simultaneously to generate the greatest benefit for local wildlife and plants, as well as the greatest financial reward for the landowner.

“Some of the boldest, most proactive voices in the fight for our environment are coming from the private sector,” says Karen Colebourn, Director and Principal Ecologist, EPR, “Innovative individuals and businesses, supported by increasingly favourable public sentiment, have responded to the UK’s environmental crisis by recognising the capacity of their land to deliver a wide range of benefits, including carbon capture, flood control, pollution reduction, and biodiversity restoration. However, in the absence of promised legislation, these businesses require both financial and ecological support to bring their bold proposals to drive biodiversity recovery to life.”

Karen continued: “Unfortunately, many ambitious landowners looking to improve the environment feel like they have been left without government guidance, as despite being on the table for more than two years, the Environment Bill, with its commitment to biodiversity net gain, has still not been heard in the Commons. Likewise, the proposed Environmental Land Management scheme for rewarding ‘public goods’ as outlined in the emerging Agriculture Bill, is not set to be rolled out until later this decade.

“However, incentive schemes for landowners looking to provide ecosystem services such as carbon capture and biodiversity net gain are already available – albeit under-reported. These schemes can unlock funding and the strength of the private sector to drive the restoration and stewardship of the environment now, regardless of the progression of the Bills.

“Landowners need guidance on the schemes available in their area, which schemes overlap, and how to understand the opportunities their land could present – for the benefit of the environment and their business. This is precisely what we have aimed to do with our latest report.”

You can download EPR’s new report, ‘A Business Case for Cultivating Natural Capital’, the second in a series addressing Britain’s biodiversity legislation and the opportunities it presents, at: https://www.buildingbiodiversity.co.uk/