Support for farmers to access investment to drive nature recovery

The first ever Nature for Finance event will bring together farmers, land managers, investors and conservation experts to identify new investment opportunities

Nature markets offer a new way for farmers to generate income alongside food production.

As part of the delivery of one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities to grow the economy, additional support to help farmers access private investment to support nature recovery on their farms will be announced today (19 June).

The first ever ‘Nature for Finance’ event will bring together farmers, land managers, investors and conservation experts to identify new investment opportunities that drive forward actions to mobilise investment in nature recovery while continuing to keep the nation fed.

At the event, held at 10 Downing Street, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey will announce the intention to launch an additional round of the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) later this year to help farmers address barriers to accessing private investment to help nature’s recovery.

This round will be the first time the NEIRF focuses specifically on the farming sector, helping farmers to come together at a landscape scale to combine their offer to investors, and enabling more types of farmer to access and benefit from nature markets.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey said:

"Food production and enhancing the environment go hand in hand. We must continue to support farmers to keep our nation fed while also safeguarding the valuable biodiversity and landscapes we rely on.

"Today’s event is an important step forward in bringing together farmers and financiers to invest in nature and unlock new opportunities to improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of farm businesses."

Food production relies on a healthy and thriving natural environment and nature markets offer a new way for farmers to generate income alongside food production. To date, 86 projects across England have received development grants of up to £100,000 through two competitive rounds of the £10 million NEIRF in 2021 and 2022.

Today’s event follows last month’s UK Farm to Fork Summit at No10, at which representatives from the whole food supply chain came together to identify ways to boost growth, drive innovation and improve sustainability so that we boost food production alongside delivering nature recovery for our countryside.

The NEIRF funds projects that have the potential to produce revenue from the benefits nature provides to attract and repay investment, as well as projects able to produce an investment model that can be scaled up and reproduced.

The Wendling Beck Exemplar Project, a collaboration between private landowners, local authorities, environmental NGOs, and Anglian Water, has already benefitted from NEIRF support. This aims to transform land use for environmental benefit while also selling ecosystem services such as Biodiversity Net Gain.

Glenn Anderson, Project Lead of The Wendling Beck Exemplar Project said:

"Wendling Beck is a pathfinder project for financing land-use change through new nature markets. Projects like Wendling Beck are critical in safeguarding long-term food security - through mitigating existential challenges to climate, water and biodiversity - and enhancing the national natural capital reserves which underpin our economy.

"The project was fortunate to receive funding from the NEIRF, which supported the projects feasibility and design at a critical time. The funding enabled us to consolidate the project structure and lay some important foundations on which the project now stands."

The Secretary of State will also announce the start of the piloting phase of a new version of the Green Finance Institute’s (GFI) investment readiness toolkit which will provide a tailored framework offering farmers valuable advice on how to create investable nature finance projects. In the pilot phase, the GFI will gather insights from stakeholders – including those in attendance at the event today – to ensure the toolkit meets the specific needs of farmers.

The government will also consult later this year on specific steps and interventions needed to mobilise additional nature finance through voluntary markets and protect against the risk of greenwashing, seeking input from experts in finance, business, environment, and farming sectors.

The UK was the first major country to publish a green finance strategy in 2019 which was updated this year alongside a new Nature Markets Framework. Significant progress has been made in integrating nature into the economy, including statutory targets for environmental improvement and the development of a policy framework for scaling up nature markets. Defra’s new partnership with the British Standards Institution will ensure the adoption of sound scientific standards underpinning nature investments and avoiding greenwashing.

Archie Ruggles-Brise, Estate Manager of Spains Hall Estate in Essex, said,

"The opportunities for land managers to engage directly with finance professionals, tech providers and local authorities around environmental markets are rare, especially at this early stage of the market. So to be afforded that chance through the Essex County Council led NEIRF project is exciting.

"This could be game changing for farms, as once the income side is proven it opens the door for all kinds of support for transition to alternative, more sustainable, land use choices. It’s all about having more choice, especially beyond commodity markets, now and in the future."

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP