The Green Finance Institute acts as advisor and third-party assessor to the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF), supporting Defra and the Environment Agency.
The Fund of up to £10 million provides grants up to £100,000 to more than 75 environmental groups, local authorities, businesses and other organisations to help them develop nature projects in England to a point where they can attract private investment. It was designed by Defra and the Environment Agency, working with Her Majesty’s Treasury, Natural England and Access – Foundation for Social Investment.
The GFI also partners with Ecosystems Knowledge Network and funder, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to support the NEIRF’s Community of Practice that is administered and run by the Environment Agency. This is accessible via a NEIRF SharePoint website, which provides additional learning resources about the fund. Access can be provided by emailing NEIRF@environment-agency.gov.uk.
In Round 1, 29 applicants were awarded grants including:
- United Utilities’ development of an environmental impact bond model and an investment case to deliver up to ten sustainable drainage systems to industrial estates and other nature based solutions;
- Ecotricity’s establishment of a carbon bank – identifying and modelling woodland creation in a number of company sites, which will result in the creation and selling of woodland carbon a new and bespoke web platform to over 200,000 customers;
- Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire, working to develop a new business model for multi-functional forestry to realise wider benefits from carbon sequestration, biodiversity credits, recreation, and water quality;
- RSPB’s development of an aggregation vehicle which would finance habitat creation in a pipeline of projects. It will seek to model revenues through biodiversity and carbon credits at significant scale, and it will model this approach in up to six pioneer sites;
- Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s scheme to raise investment to restore peatland through the Greater Manchester Environment Fund by modelling revenues from the sale of carbon and biodiversity credits through woodland creation and increasing biodiversity; and
- Surrey Wildlife Trust’s scheme to establish a natural capital investment company to model biodiversity net gain at scale in support of development growth in the southern England.
In Round 2, over 50 schemes were awarded grants including:
- SaltyCo’s development of a blended agri-carbon model for lowland peat restoration, rewetting lowland peat to grow plant fibre material and sell the resulting carbon credits.
- Plymouth City Council’s pilot Seagrass Carbon Code, attracting investment in seagrass beds as a biodiversity-rich carbon storing habitat. Sediment sampling will be carried out to map the carbon sequestration potential.
- National Trust’s development of a ‘Nature Friendly Farming Transition Fund’, writing a business case to transition the National Trust’s tenant farmers towards more nature-friendly farming by generating revenue from carbon and Biodiversity Net Gain payments.
- Hill, Stone and Wood’s concept of a home insurance product that directs profit towards projects that will reduce local flood risk. The project also aims to create an Impact Monitoring Tool that will spread the approach through the insurance industry.
- Heal Rewilding CIO’s new blueprint for investing in rewilding sites. The project will develop a business case, an investment prospectus and secure buyers for the resulting Biodiversity Net Gain and carbon credits.
- Lancashire County Council’s Climate Resilience Insetting Mechanism, creating an alternative approach to carbon accounting using Authority-Based Insetting (ABI).
As part of its evaluation and to support knowledge sharing from the NEIRF, eight short case studies have been produced on completed projects. These eight projects have explored various revenue models based on ecosystem services such as carbon, Biodiversity Net Gain, and natural flood management. Each case study gives an overview of the project’s governance, revenue models, replicability, and key learnings. Further case studies will be published as projects complete.
The Investment Readiness Toolkit
The Green Finance Institute is working with NEIRF grantees and other projects to develop an Investment Readiness Toolkit for nature, based on the following Steps to Investment Readiness, which launched on 8 December 2022. It has over 30 detailed case studies about the NEIRF projects and their various stages of devleopment.