Over recent years we have encouraged and enhanced the understanding of Natural Capital within the industry, whether it be via bespoke CPD’s, company webinars and events, articles and publications or taking a leading role in speaking at external events for RICS, NFU, CLA, ALA and others.
More recently we have seen the influence of Natural Capital thinking embedded into emerging policy across the sector with a focus on achieving the goals of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the legal commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The forthcoming COP26 climate conference to be held in Glasgow has also brought these matters into sharp focus.
In November 2020, the Government’s Landmark Agriculture Bill passed into law. The Bill sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with ‘public money for public goods’ – such as better air and water quality, thriving wildlife, soil health, or measures to reduce flooding and tackle the effects of climate change, under the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS).
This is due to be followed closely by the Environment Bill 2019-2020, however, the Bill continues to be delayed on the back of the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Following commitments in the 25 Year Environment Plan around net gain, the current iteration of the Bill proposes that all consented developments in England, with certain modest exceptions, will be mandated to deliver a biodiversity net gain of minimum 10% as against the measured baseline position. Further details can be found in our recent guidance booklet.
However, the critical issue around Natural Capital continues to be the over-complication of the assessment of the baseline position, with a vast range of methodologies and outputs that often attribute high values with little connection to practical market opportunities and potential revenue streams or wider business opportunities.
The continued lack of certainty around the scope and value of the ELMS and the immature state of other Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services markets means that landowners and managers are reluctant to invest in developing the knowledge and understanding that will be critical in enabling them to take full advantage of the opportunities that will emerge over the coming months and years.
In light of the above, at Lockhart Garratt we have developed a unique methodology based upon over 20 years of experience in the environmental sector, to enable landowners to rapidly interrogate and understand the natural capital potential of their land holdings.
Critically this will not seek to reinvent the wheel, but seek to work closely with landowners, farmers and their key advisors who know and understand the land best. We are able to support this with a wide suite of baseline data and to use our knowledge and experience to help evaluate pragmatic opportunities, using structures and methodologies aligned to the ENCA approach. This can then be used to identify key areas of commercial potential, based on the maturity of emerging markets.
The core aim is to develop the collective understanding and to guide future work and investment to maximise potential returns from land in the new policy and regulatory environment.