The Local Investment in Natural Capital (LINC) programme is providing four pioneering local and combined authority areas with funding of up to £1 million each, over two years, to support them in developing the capability to secure private finance for delivery of local priorities for nature.

 

The use of green finance at scale is required to address the big environmental challenges we face, including mitigating and adapting to climate change, moving to net zero, protecting and restoring biodiversity, and improving the water environment. The Government has set a target of mobilising at least £500 million in private finance to support nature’s recovery every year by 2027 in England, rising to more than £1 billion by 2030. It is intended that LINC will contribute to this target by supporting local/combined authorities to develop the capability to secure private finance for delivery of local priorities for nature. The Local Investment in Natural Capital (LINC) programme was announced in the 2023 Green Finance Strategy.

The LINC pilot programme is a Defra initiated programme, lead by the Environment Agency and delivered through Local Authorities. The aim is to develop a pipeline of investment-ready natural capital projects and associated finance mechanisms that will generate revenue and returns for investors, while also directing investment to local priorities for protecting and enhancing the domestic natural environment. The sharing of learning and best practice is an important element of the LINC programme.

 

Four Local/Combined Authority Boundaries are currently funded through the LINC programme:

  • Northumberland, Cumberland Westmorland and Furness (Borderlands)
  • York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority
  • West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Cornwall Council

If you would like to learn more about the LINC pilot programme, please contact Lynn Ford, Environment Agency LINC Programme Manager, at lynn.ford@environment-agency.gov.uk. You may also contact the LINC Leads of the four pilot areas, the details of which can be found below.

Cornwall Council

“LINC is an exciting initiative supporting investment-ready natural capital projects in Cornwall to engage with funders. We enable landowners and farmers to develop and bring unique site-based projects to the marketplace where delivery of nature recovery can be rewarded. Developers and businesses keen to meet their socially and environmentally responsible targets can support projects that help create a greener future whilst investing in a slice of heaven – Cornwall’s rich and diverse natural environment.

 

Funders can choose from a range of bold and innovative projects; from large scale tree planting to butterfly-laden wildflower meadows; from seagrass beds to new wildlife habitats in urban areas. These nature-based solutions all contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change, through natural flood management and nature recovery. By protecting and replenishing the natural environment they will help meet the ambitious target in our pioneering Environmental Growth Strategy and emerging Local Nature Recovery Strategy: whereby 30% of our land, rivers and sea will be well managed for nature by 2030.”

Mark Hanmore, Cornwall LINC Project Manager – mark.hanmore@cornwall.gov.uk

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)

 The WMCA will work with regional stakeholders to develop a pipeline of projects that have the scale and impact needed to attract significant levels of investment and help deliver the priorities set out in the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan. The WMCA is the only major urban area to be chosen for DEFRA’s two-year Local Investment in Natural Capital (LINC) programme as greater environmental responsibilities are set to be transferred from Whitehall to the region as part of the recently announced Deeper Devolution Deal.

 

Importantly, the potential investment secured as part of the programme will also enable the WMCA to deliver more nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, the development of a local nature recovery strategy, and improvements to air quality.

Tristan Semple, West Midlands Combined Authority Project Manager – tristan.semple@WMCA.org.uk

Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness

The ambition within the 2-year lifetime of the pilot is to have developed an appropriate way for brokering private investment.  The investment would be in a wide range of projects and packages in the natural environment. These packages would be on a variety of scales, across our area of the Borderlands within England.  This way of brokering private investment would be ready for April 2025.

 

Our project will reach a better understanding of the current condition of the natural capital assets across our area.  By “natural capital” we mean resources in an ecosystem, like water, wood, soils, air and all living things, which provide society with services like pollination, flood reduction, energy and carbon storage, to name just a few. Having taking account of how these natural capital assets could contribute to potential nature recovery, carbon capture or offsetting, river catchment management, the visitor economy and recreation, and job creation, we will then estimate the “investment value” of these natural capital assets.

 

We aim to be able to define propositions or packages that make financial sense to prospective private sector investors, whilst being sensitive to the local needs. We also want to learn from other pilots and good practice examples, nationally and internationally, throughout the lifetime of the pilot.  We will build local capacity and capability to ensure the broking system is workable after the pilot ends. We will also share our own learning and case studies of good practice.

Sarah Kidd, Senior Economic Advisor – sarah.kidd@northumberland.gov.uk

City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council

York and North Yorkshire have an ambition to become England’s first carbon negative region by 2040. York and North Yorkshire’s Routemap to Carbon Negative sets out the region’s ambitious plans, organised around 3 strategic pillars, Energy System, Circular Economy and Natural Capital.

 

Our region is rich in natural capital, thanks to our world-renowned landscapes, rivers, coastline and urban green spaces. The Local Investment in Natural Capital Programme (LINC) will help us to understand how we can attract investment into natural capital that can restore and sustain the natural environment, whilst unlocking significant economic value. Research shows that with strong private and public sector partnerships and the right investment, York and North Yorkshire’s natural capital economy could grow by 31% before 2050, which would translate into £946m GVA.

 

LINC will support us to increase green finance for nature and marine-based solutions such as tree planting, and peatland restoration, and support farmers to access new private sector investments that increase resilience in the landscapes they manage. Our communities and businesses can benefit too, through improved access, supported well-being, increased resilience to flooding, a better quality of crops, and removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere.

 

We’ll be working together and with our key stakeholders with an ambition to deliver:

 

  • A Land Use Assessment and Natural Capital Investment Plan (NCIP)
  • A pipeline of investible natural capital projects and piloting projects that test mechanisms for private investment
  • Business cases for a self-sustaining Accelerator Programme and a local investment vehicle to reduce reliance on public funding.

Ann Stewart, Natural Capital Programme Manager – ann.stewart@northyorks.gov.uk