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Exclusive: UK100 report calls for alignment of nature and net zero targets

A network of local authorities, UK100, has released a new report examining progress made in improving the environment and restoring nature.

Improvements have been made, including the passing of the Environment Act last year, bringing in binding targets for air quality, water, waste reduction and biodiversity, as well as more ambitious global commitments.

But the analysis, due to be published later today, also highlighted the need for greater urgency in clearly defining targets set by the Environment Act and the delivery of them by public bodies.

Additionally, UK100 identified a lack of connection between Environment Act and Net Zero targets, missing opportunities for co-benefits and offering slow progress.

silhouette of a person standing near the tree during sunset

‘We need to identify and strengthen the links between the Environment Act and Net Zero targets,’ reads the report. ‘By aligning frameworks, partnerships and financing, we stand a much better chance of delivering against both.

‘We need greater clarity on roles and responsibilities, and we need to make sure enforcement bodies (like the OEP) have the teeth they need to hold organisations to account.’

Limitations in funding are also holding back progress, with a UK Cities Climate Investment Commission report recommending incentives for private investment in green infrastructure.

This could be achieved by monetizing co-benefits, such as carbon sequestration and flood prevention, something currently being pursued by the government’s Environmental Land Management schemes.

Three overarching themes were identified within the report:

– Partnerships: Institutions and governing bodies should collaborate to ensure a unified approach to nature recovery – in particular local authorities should work closely with local stakeholders. Local authorities should also work together to connect natural habitats, through wildlife corridors.

– Finance: The government needs to address the lack of a funding strategy to deliver the Environment Act’s targets and explore new ways to incentivize private investment. The UK Infrastructure Bank is crucial in this and UK100 is advocating for nature-based solutions to be recognised as an area for funding and support.

– Governance: Greater integration is required between Net Zero and nature recovery, with Defra’s position in the new Local Net Zero Forum key in delivering this. Local authorities should also be supported by strong framework to enable cross-boundary approaches in delivering local nature recovery strategies.

Local authorities will have the ability to deliver nature targets, with long-term, non-competitive funding, while a place-based approach to ensure the needs and opportunities of each area are recognised could also enhance progress.

‘Local and combined authorities are leading the way,’ wrote Karen Barrass, author of the report and Policy and Research Manager at UK100. ‘As the focal point for extensive land use engagement, as well as relationships with farmers and nature-focused NGOs, they are already identifying and optimising the Net Zero benefits of natural capital recovery and Net Zero agriculture.’

Photo by Simon Wilkes

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