This blog, written by Head of Future Nature Jamie Audsley, is the third in an exciting mini-series exploring the RSPB vision for a nature positive future in the UK, what this means and what it will take to make this vision a reality.  

 

 If the Government is serious about being a leader on nature, they’ll use their power to ensure they green the money. 

In our first blog, we outlined our vision for a Nature Positive world and a mission for a new economy to make it happen – that is, an economy which replenishes our natural capital, secures us against the risks associated with biodiversity loss, and sets us up for future prosperity.   

As part of this mission, we’ve made the case that more public money for nature is needed now, if we’re to meet restoration targets for priority habitats and in turn leverage a much larger shift in private sector investment to protect and manage 30% of land and seas for nature by 2030 (and of course, as much of the additional 70% as possible!).     

A related question that’s vital to consider, is how best to support all the money flowing into places and infrastructure projects work for nature? Or at least not harm it! In short, what are the rules of the game Government need to create for a Nature Positive future? 

What needs to change 

Government already spends a significant amount of money across public services, contracts, and new infrastructure projects. The challenge now is to ensure that this investment really works for nature. To make this change happen, both central and devolved governments must change how money is spent so harm to nature is prevented and public investment is instead used to restore nature.    

What nature needs Government to do 

Direct government spending criteria and investment taxonomies – common frameworks setting the standard for investments to be considered ‘environmentally sustainable’ – need to be properly developed and implemented. This means: 

  • Effective implementation of Government appraisal guidance (the Green Book), reflecting the value of biodiversity and natural capital in investment and policy choices. UK Governments must fully implement the Green Book across all appraisal decisions and add an annex on biodiversity. It is an excellent foundation for more sustainable decision-making, but is not yet applied with sufficient rigour.  
  • The Public Accounts Committee should regularly assess how the Green Book guidance is being applied in order to shift the basis of decision-making towards a nature-positive economy. 
  • All government spending policies should be screened to ensure annual budgets and spending reviews support a net zero, nature positive transition. This could include: 1. developing and applying government guidance on ‘biodiversity proofing' for use by all spending departments – this might require a more detailed toolkit than a Green Book annex might provide, specifying how biodiversity appraisal would be applied to specific types of spending; and 2. a structured appraisal and statement of biodiversity impacts – and contribution to Nature Positive – in all government budget statements and spending reviews. 
  • All four governments of the UK should urgently review the adequacy of their environmental enforcement systems and make the necessary changes to ensure that laws designed to protect nature and biodiversity are clearly and robustly applied. 

Change incentivised throughout the public sector 

In line with the above, UK Governments must champion nature-aligned public spending across all areas, including overseas development aid budgets, mandates with development finance institutions, and the reform of agricultural and fisheries subsidy payments and tax reliefs. In particular, UK Governments must all now move to align future agricultural payments with the delivery of public goods, and supporting the creation of a Nature and Climate Sovereign Bond Facility, enabling a robust scaling of nature- and climate-associated sovereign debt would be a powerful step too.  

Incentivising change in the private sector is vital too 

We will also be pushing for government to bring forward clear rules for investment in the wider economy and private sector – including the need to disclose impacts on nature and establish 'green taxonomies’ to properly measure impact. To keep it simple, we need to mirror the journey of action we have seen for climate and carbon. Recently, we’ve seen good news in the form of the government’s Green Finance Roadmap. Firms will be required to publish climate transition plans that align with the government’s net zero commitment or explain why they have not done so. Now let’s see this required for nature. 

We also need to understand the current state of play. That requires legislating for mandatory disclosure of nature-related impacts by businesses, including the financial sector, as soon as the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TFND) and taxonomies are ready. By assessing their impacts on nature and aligning future plans with the 2030 mission, we can strategically shift the spending that follows. UK Governments can incentivise change in the private sector by: 

  • Championing measures to ensure deforestation-free supply chains for globally traded commodities, including strengthening their own due diligence obligation to ensure that its provisions apply to the financial sector.  
  • Aiming to ensure that, in future, public procurement vendors disclose biodiversity impacts along their value chain.  
  • Scaling up incentives for private sector investment in ecosystem restoration, including through:  
    • Developing and applying a clear strategy for blending public and private finance for nature – ensuring that ‘public money for public goods’ complements, facilitates and does not crowd out private investment in nature – maximising investment in nature and value for money for taxpayers.
    • The adoption of net gain principles, or equivalent in planning and development.
    • Measures to drive more investment in natural flood risk management, water catchment restoration and other ecosystem services.  
    • Developing high standards in carbon markets to help facilitate investment in Nature-Based Solutions to the climate crisis. 

       

Where next?  

What does nature-aligned spending actually look like? What are the criteria and taxonomies behind it? Work to define the details is only in its early stages, and there is huge uncertainty around implementation and what this will look like in practice. But we know what needs to happen – robust, comprehensive regulation and enforcement across all four countries is essential, as well as aligning private sector investment with nature and climate goals.  

We’re seeing policy developments in this space and there are opportunities to influence – including the Government’s green taxonomy consultation. Progress needs to happen fast and at scale to bring about necessary changes, but there is lots we can already get started with and we should not let the magnitude of the task be an obstacle to action.

To share your ideas to ensure all public investment, however financed, adheres to nature-positive criteria and facilitates more private financing flows into nature, get in touch with Jamie Audsley (Jamie.Audsley@rspb.org.uk).  

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs from the Future Nature team, we’ll be back soon with exciting content on achieving a Nature Positive future. 

Anonymous
Parents
  • Helpful article. On the money, so to speak. Very important we put local communities at the heart of financial innovation for nature restoration. According to figures commissioned by the Green Finance Institute, we are looking at a £45 bn funding gap. Calls for a bit more public finance are probably not going to cut it (even if the economic case is overwhelming). But, calls for public finance, standards and smart regulation to be used more intelligently to bring in private finance are much more viable.

Comment
  • Helpful article. On the money, so to speak. Very important we put local communities at the heart of financial innovation for nature restoration. According to figures commissioned by the Green Finance Institute, we are looking at a £45 bn funding gap. Calls for a bit more public finance are probably not going to cut it (even if the economic case is overwhelming). But, calls for public finance, standards and smart regulation to be used more intelligently to bring in private finance are much more viable.

Children
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