Thoughts on Financing Nature Recovery UK's "Roadmap"
Evan Bowen-Jones Acting Managing Director
The Financing Nature Recovery UK initiative was established in November 2020. Its ”Recommendations and Roadmap: pathway to unlock private finance investment in nature's recovery across the UK” was published yesterday.
This analyses how to scale up high-integrity environmental markets, and provides many sensible recommendations. But what is most evident is how woefully under-prepared the UK is to mobilise and deliver these at the pace now required. We need to be implementing solutions today if, for instance, Natural Climate Solutions are going to help us stick within 1.5 degrees Celsius, let alone reversing the decline in nature/ biodiversity before we hit critical tipping points.
The report highlights ‘ a key lack of agreed technical standards for nature-based projects, or standardised methods for measuring and accrediting the environmental services they deliver’.
The perception created by the report is that Government must lead in developing these based upon existing mechanisms.
However, the limited existing models both national and international were created in a different context before COP26, the latest IPCC report, and the clear consensus that High Integrity Solutions must deal with the nature and climate crisis at the same time.
And, although limited Government funding has been made available through schemes like the Natural Environment Readiness Initiative there is little evidence that any of the relevant departments are positioned to provide the “market governance” it advocates any time soon.
This is why Wilder Carbon has moved at speed to create a nature-based carbon standard as per recommendation 6.2 of the Report.
Therefore, whilst Wilder Carbon is pleased to feature in the Financing Nature report as a ‘developing standard for nature-based environmental services’ we have already achieved this.
Working with the private sector we can start to deliver nature restoration at a previously unachievable scale and pace now through the UKs first genuine high integrity initiative.
Of course, the speed at which we can ramp up would be substantially increased if more substantive support was available from government, and supportive policies (including around tax) were put in place to help unlock the supply side of things, as highlighted in the Wilder Carbon findings report Unlocking the climate benefits of large-scale nature restoration across the UK.
How Wilder Carbon is a high integrity mechanism for financing UK Nature Restoration:
Wilder Carbon’s aim is to restore carbon-rich native habitats across the UK for climate, for wildlife, and for society, whilst delivering genuine carbon removals. It is harnessing the networked expertise of conservation, accreditation, finance and land management sectors to demonstrate a scalable, future-proofed multi-habitat carbon proposition as we speak.
Figure 1: High Level Operating Model for Wilder Carbon
Financing Nature Recovery UK's latest report summarises the key components that they regard as required for High Integrity Environmental Markets (as per Fig 2). Wilder Carbon covers off all these elements, as discussed next. It provides a model mechanism for policy makers to build upon; a value-added proposition for specific habitat codes (both current and emerging) as ‘accounting methodologies’; and an investible proposition for ethical fund managers.
Figure 2: “Summary Framework for High-Integrity Environmental Markets" from Financing Nature Recovery UK Recommendations & Roadmap Figure 2: “Summary Framework for High-Integrity Environmental Markets”
On the “Market Design” side of things, in blue: Wilder Carbon sits clearly within the voluntary carbon space, whilst providing a modern fit-for-purpose system future-proofed to potential regulatory requirements.
It offers stackable carbon credits – going on sale next month, held on a modern, high integrity registry – generated from projects verified independently to the Wilder Carbon Standards for nature and climate, signed off by an independent expert Technical Standards Board ,whilst remaining flexible to emerging international voluntary carbon principles and guidance* which the UK government is likely to align.
The Standard requires buyers to disclose their carbon emissions reduction strategies, and encourages biodiversity commitments, in parallel to work from the likes of the Science Based Targets Initiative and the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosure.
On what Financing Nature term the “Market Governance” side, in green:
As well as the above ‘buyer eligibility’ the Wilder Carbon Standards assure project quality (carbon sequestration/ emission avoidance estimation methodology; additionality, permanence, & no leakage; and biodiversity uplift) as per Fig. 1. This enables Wilder Carbon project deliverers and buyers to be able to claim genuine nature and climate impact (aka carbon removals).
Independent verification of projects is then achieved c/o the Soil Association, pegged to UK Accreditation Service, with whom Wilder Carbon is working to grow a network of trained verifiers harnessing existing expertise to build capacity as the portfolio of projects grows.
Linked to this, on the “Market Operation” side of things (in orange) Wilder Carbon is operating through Trusted Deliverers: a growing network of established conservation organisations, who are intimately involved in establishing local Nature Recovery Networks, working with local landowners, communities, and local authorities, etc. They are often already working on other nature based solutions e.g. biodiversity net gain; and are often the people who possess the best local data e.g. on habitat condition (a key gap highlighted in the report). It is this community of practice that Wilder Carbon is harnessing to ensure that this market mechanism provides genuine local benefit and is optimised from a social and ecological standpoint – all of which is assured via the evolving Wilder Carbon Standard – v 2 being due out this year.
Figure 3: Delivery model for Wilder Carbon
As the Financing Nature Recovery UK report puts it in its Foreword “environmental markets must be well-designed and governed to prevent ‘greenwash’ and ensure they deliver real environmental improvement and benefit local communities.”
The Wilder Carbon Standard, will leverage carbon finance to deliver nature positive carbon removal. No nature-based carbon project should be delivered to the detriment of wildlife. Our Wilder Carbon credits will establish a fair price for conservation grade carbon that results in genuine voluntary action for climate.
We recognise that in order to assure the resilience and sustainability of these projects, and the carbon uplift they provide, carbon finance alone will not be enough. And so Wilder Carbon projects explicitly allow stacked payments from other environmental services.
In the absence of policy or consistent guidance, Wilder Carbon is using the best available data and insight to set the bar on Natural Climate Solutions. We do not have time to reinvent the wheel. Work with us to scale nature’s recovery now.
*Wilder Carbon Standard will be continuously evolved to incorporate emerging best practice and guidance such as VCMI Code of Practice and the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market's pending Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) and Assessment Framework (AF)