Gloucestershire Nature and Climate Fund
Achieving an overall net gain for biodiversity is to become mandatory for most planning applications by 2023. A minimum of 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) will be required and this will frequently be challenging to deliver on site. In these circumstances the option of delivering new or improved habitat (and other environmental measures) off-site comes into play. Currently the only option for developers in Gloucestershire is to buy into a national, profit-making scheme, with funds not likely to be spent in county.
Following a meeting in November 2020, the Local Authority Biodiversity and Planning group, chaired by Gary Kennison, County Ecologist, made a recommendation to the Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership Board (presented in Jan 2021) proposing:
"the GLNP should facilitate a local option for developers (to buy biodiversity net gain credits). This would potentially provide better delivery of biodiversity (and other environmental) enhancement in Gloucestershire in line with strategic objectives."
All Gloucestershire's Local Authorities have declared a climate emergency. A key part of getting to net zero will be better land management, and specifically carbon sequestration through tree planting and woodland creation. Further, successful adaptation to the impacts of climate change rests on our ability to implement appropriate nature-based solutions.
The GLNP Board agreed to work with partners to enable action at scale and pace, and a full partnership meeting held in the same month received unanimous support for progressing with the establishment of a local trust or fund. Working in partnership with Gfirst LEP, GLNP will establish a Gloucestershire Nature and Climate Fund (GNCF). As well as delivering biodiversity net gain credits for developers, the independent GNCF also proposes to establish a carbon market for the county.
Leveraging private money to deliver environmental objectives is key to delivering on a number of environmental priorities for partners, including tree planting, nature recovery and natural flood management. Many actors, from individual members of the public to large multinational corporations, wish for a variety of reasons to pay others to sequester carbon, usually through planting trees (although a project is underway to establish a carbon code for soils, whereby farmers could get paid for more soil-friendly farming practices).
This is an exciting time for Gloucestershire's nature, but haste is needed to ensure we are able to act at scale to mitigate the ecological and climate emergencies that threaten the resilience of our natural environment, society and economy.