Updates from International Advisory Panel for Biodiversity Credits come as new report reveals devasting loss of UK nature.
From the UK county of Somerset to the island of Borneo, indigenous stewards of the natural environment will be “essential” to the development of high-quality biodiversity credits, Dame Amelia Fawcett, Co-Chair of the International Advisory Panel for Biodiversity Credits has said this week.
Fawcett was speaking at the Nature Finance UK conference held at London’s Guildhall, where she gave an update on the International Advisory Panel for Biodiversity Credits. The joint initiative between the UK and French governments was launched in Paris in June at the Summit on a New Global Financing Pact by Thérèse Coffey, the British Environment Secretary, and French State Minister Bérangère Couillard. The Advisory Panel will report at key international forums, beginning with the climate-focused COP28 in Dubai in December, COP16 on biodiversity in 2024, and the Ocean summit in Nice in 2025.
Fawcett said that the Advisory Panel, which she co-chairs with Sylvie Goulard, former Deputy Governor of the Banque de France, had already met twice, and would aim to support the development of biodiversity credits by identifying, developing and promoting practices, norms and a set of standards and policies that would underpin the development of high-integrity biodiversity credit markets “that can deliver at scale and in a timely manner”.
“Open and inclusive process”
According to an analysis by BloombergNEF in May, the footprint of the eight most developed existing biodiversity crediting schemes covers more than 800,000 hectares with US$8 million in funding pledged – a tiny fraction of the estimated US$169 billion currently spent on biodiversity.
As part of its work, Fawcett said the Advisory Panel would seek to build on existing best practice to stimulate innovation where there are gaps and learn lessons from the carbon credit market. “Time is short and we are committed to undertaking an open and inclusive working process,” she said, adding that it would include policymakers, regulators, indigenous peoples and local communities, scientific groups, market actors, technologists, civil society and the financial community.
The International Advisory Panel on Biodiversity Credits launched its new website this week, with details of its 19 members, including David Craig, Co-Chair of the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures, Hiromichi Mizuno, former Special Envoy to the UN Secretary General on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investment, Pauline Nantongo Kalunda, Executive Director of Ecotrust, Philippe Zaouati, CEO of Mirova and Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, environmentalist and Tribal Chief of the Paiter Surui People.
Equitable sharing of benefits with indigenous peoples and local communities where credits sought to protect and restore biodiversity, was important for the integrity of the biodiversity credits market, Fawcett said.
“People on the ground are essential whether it’s in Somerset, Andalusia or Borneo as stewards of their natural environment, in many cases for centuries, if not millennia. They can be powerful advocates and our first line of defence for ensuring the results we all want. So, they must be at the heart of our efforts, not just consulted, but involved at every stage… we must expedite the restoration of biodiversity and the regeneration of the natural world we are really dependent upon.”
UK policy uncertainty
The update on the France-UK initiative comes as a new study on the state of nature in the UK has found that one in six species are threatened with extinction. It follows the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announcing a delay to the mandatory biodiversity net gain scheme – slated to play a role in England’s nature markets by introducing biodiversity rules for the planning and development sector.
Speaking at the Nature Finance UK conference, Helen Edmundson, Deputy Director – Green Finance at Defra, spoke about its initiative with the British Standards Institution, the UK’s national standards body, to develop Nature Investment Standards. She said the work was “pretty complicated”, as it had to be accessible to a wide range of people including landowners, farmers, as well as suppliers to nature markets.
On a separate panel at the conference, Whitni Thomas, Head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, noted the scale of the challenge to catalyse nature markets, in the short time frame needed to reverse stark nature loss. “We will need to do things top down,” she noted. “That’s just the harsh reality that we can’t wait for everything to be done through grassroots or community.”
Thomas added that there was a disconnect between the expectations of institutional capital and the current state of nature projects in the UK. “It’s going to last longer than 12 to 18 months……And there’s preconditions that need to be in place where a whole ecosystem needs to develop to attract institutional capital at scale.” These included a rethink on investment timeframes, legal frameworks and contractual implications, she said.