After three years the Environment Act has finally been made law. I am delighted that particularly the mandate for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) on all new developments and infrastructure projects is now legally binding. It’s an issue I pioneered and have campaigned for over many years.
The Environment Act provides a once in a lifetime opportunity and I now urge the government to ensure the policy that underpins it is of the very highest standard. Through BNG, we can support nature recovery and our collective Net Zero targets. It will also support better air quality and help achieve the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
The Habitat Bank model I have pioneered to deliver BNG will deliver large scale, high quality, offsite areas of nature recovery through a straightforward model that creates a real and lasting impact for our environment that will make a major contribution to the nature recovery agenda.
It is vital that the policy framework that underpins the Environment Act contains good governance mechanisms. It must be robust and of the very highest standards across the board, as well as applicable to all development and infrastructure projects – so that BNG can be measured realistically and in line with the ambition of the Act.
What does the government need to do next?
- Ensure the policy framework that underpins the Environment Act contains outstanding governance mechanisms – is robust and of the very highest standards across the board as well as applicable to all developers – so that BNG can be measured realistically and in line with the ambition of the Act.
- Ensure biodiversity net gain is enshrined in the criteria for the UK’s National Infrastructure Bank, forming part of its Net Zero mandate. Biodiversity should be specifically targeted in the criteria and mechanisms for exemplary governance on all new infrastructure projects developed.
Without such governance, there is a genuine risk the Act will fail. It is critically important that local and national government does not distort the market for providing biodiversity restoration linked to development needs. The private sector is able and willing to deliver nature restoration at scale and the government needs to ensure a level playing field by not distorting the market.
David is chairman and founding owner of The Environment Bank Ltd which he set up in 2006 to introduce the concept of compensation, via biodiversity offsetting and habitat banking, into the UK because of his concerns at the way biodiversity was treated within the planning and development sector.
David’s concept of biodiversity compensation, ensuring developments provide net gains to biodiversity, has been embedded in the government’s 25-year Environment Plan and National Planning Policy Framework and is being mandated through the enactment of the Environment Bill in autumn 2021 such that biodiversity net gain will be a requirement on all development’.