A day to celebrate the vast variety of life on earth!
Often when international environment days roll around, there is a plethora of social media posts that aim to raise awareness of the particular issue. It’s also true for this International Biodiversity Day 2022. I’ve seen numerous facts and figures on certain species of bees, birds, and butterflies that are in a dramatic nosedive by all measurable metrics. Whilst this information does a lot for awareness raising, it does little to make us feel motivated for change.
But this year, action to enhance biodiversity is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Entire industries are on course to shift how they measure and improve biodiversity, spurred on by national legislation such as the Environment Act.
Here’s why on this International Biodiversity Day 2022, we can be hopeful:
1) The largest land based industry in the UK will be paid to boost nature
Farmers manage close to 70% of land across the UK and so the potential impact that agri-industry has on biodiversity is immense. Farming activities are often perceived as at odds with pro-environmental actions. But recent policy shifts and market opportunities are now finding a way through that narrative. It seems like farm and land payments will look to pro-biodiversity actions under schemes like the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Organisations like Food Farming Countryside Commission and Nature Friendly Farming Network are supporting policymakers and farmers alike through a paradigm shift where biodiverse land management can result in increased resilience to future climate shocks.
In Scotland, our work with NatureScot’s POBAS programme has proved that farmers are willing and capable to measure and share data on biodiversity on their land. Now biodiversity data is being shared by around 100 farmers covering an area of 27,500 ha across multiple habitat types including hedgerows, grassland, wading bird areas and peatland. Now, Iceni Earth is ready to scale our solution for farmers and land managers so every land manager can get access to a biodiversity and natural capital footprint, and explore future private-public payments.
2) Building on Biodiversity Net Gain
Another monumental shift is the upcoming requirement for 10% biodiversity net gain for developments in England from November 2023. The concept took centre stage at the National Planning Summit last week and will require land developers, ecologists, planners, auditors and landowners to understand what good biodiversity looks like. It’s a challenging task, but one that brings immense opportunity to reimagine our urban environments and provide further finance to land managers through biodiversity credits.
There’s a lot of emphasis on the potential biodiversity credit market that will emerge as offsite net gain will be inevitable in some developments. But how can this market avoid many of the pitfalls of the carbon market i.e. additionality, traceability, transparency? We’re working with major land developers and ecology firms in the UK to iterate our solution to support BNG management and monitoring for the required 30+ years timescale.
3) The financial sector is waking up to biodiversity and natural capital risks
This year the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures released its beta framework to help guide the financial sector on how to perceive biodiversity as a risk and opportunity. Fund managers are also investing into carbon offset projects that boost biodiversity; expecting the market to grow 2000%. The investment community is generally waking up to what a credible offset project entails; a diverse, high condition habitat. We’re developing commercial partnerships to provide a biodiversity score to carbon offset projects and provide transparency on how investments are moving.
Challenges to overcome
Whilst we are optimistic, it’s important to not be complacent about progress. Last week at the Financial Time’s Moral Money event, the head of Responsible Investing at HSBC argued against considering climate risks in investment decision making. This viewpoint was widely discredited by commentators and HSBC itself, which gives us hope but clearly there’s still some more work to do.
The DEFRA metric 3.1 prioritises habitat condition as a proxy for understanding biodiversity. But there are still gaps in understanding what good biodiversity looks like along food, data and financial supply chains. Ensuring robustness of data at the ground level is essential; something that blockchain and smart ledger technology can help with but it’s only as good as the data provided.
The level of activity and number of organisations now aiming to enhance biodiversity, sequester carbon and recover natural capital is inspiring.
At Iceni Earth, we’ve been exploring how our software has the potential to enable land based industry to adapt to the fundamental shifts affecting them, to enable entire sectors account for and improve biodiversity.
We imagine a world where landowners can be incentivised to create diverse, thriving habitats. Time will tell how these changes will be implemented, but we’re working hard towards that vision, and glad that so many others are too.