New £10m fund set to drive private investment in nature opens for applications

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A new £10 million Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund will provide grants between £10,000 and £100,000 to environmental groups, local authorities, businesses and other organisations to help them develop nature projects in England to a point where they can attract private investment.

This seeks to create a pipeline of projects for the private sector to invest in, and develop new funding models that can be replicated elsewhere.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow commented on the Fund: “Our 25 Year Environment Plan made clear that while the public sector will continue to be a central source of funding, it is critical that this is alongside more private sector investment to protect and enhance our natural environment.

“Investors are rightly recognising environmental factors as key drivers of value.

“As we look to build back greener from the pandemic, I would encourage any interested businesses, local authorities, eNGOs or other organisations to bid for a portion of this fund.”

Examples of projects that could be eligible for the fund:

  • Creation of new woodlands and the restoration of peatlands, providing habitats for wildlife, green spaces for the public and carbon sequestration to help the government achieve its net zero target. This will generate carbon units which can be sold to businesses that want to offset emissions.
  • Creation of new coastal wetlands, which benefit wildlife and reduce tidal flooding, while also attracting investment from developers needing to deliver biodiversity net gain and even delivering revenue through eco-tourism.
  • Restoration of river catchments, helping to both improve water quality and reduce flood risk. As well as benefitting nature and people, these environmental benefits will deliver financial incentives to water companies (with reduced costs for water treatment) and encouraging them to invest.

The fund, which is being delivered by the Environment Agency on behalf of Defra, will help organisations get specialist advice, engage investors and build capacity to develop their project to the stage when it is ready to receive and repay investment.

Projects need to be replicable and scalable, with key learnings made public to encourage similar approaches to access private sector finance for nature projects in future.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, added: “The Government are calling for a green industrial revolution at the same time that investors, including people saving for their pensions, are looking for economic returns that reverse natural decline and manage climate shocks.

“There are already examples of this happening, but the global economy needs more evidence if it is going to reach a tipping point that mobilises trillions of dollars towards nature.

“This fund will help, demonstrating funding models that can be replicated, providing long-term benefits for the economy and the environment, and showing UK leadership ahead of COP26.”

The Fund is now open for applications until 26th of March 2021.

More information about the Fund and how to apply is available on the government website.