The Rivers Trust has been awarded more than £180,000 of funding to unlock new opportunities for substantial green finance investment in improving rivers and their catchment areas.
Two new projects, ‘Replenishing Nature’ and ‘Establishing commercial governance & future trades for the Eden catchment market’, will accelerate private sector investment in nature-based solutions such as ponds, wetlands, and woodlands to improve water quality, reduce flood and drought risk and provide space for wildlife and communities to thrive.
The money is part of the second round of the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF), announced today by Defra and the Environment Agency. This is to help environmental groups, local authorities, businesses and other organisations develop nature projects to a point where they can attract private investment. As well as two projects led by The Rivers Trust itself, a further six projects will be led by local Trusts in The Rivers Trust movement.
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “I’m really pleased that The Rivers Trust is leading on two successful NEIRF projects, as well as being involved in several others across the wider Rivers Trust movement. Leveraging green finance is absolutely vital for climate resilience and nature recovery, which is why we’re always committed to working in cross-sector partnerships on innovative, joined-up solutions. Pots of funding such as the NEIRF are helping to remove some of the barriers to that financial injection that is so desperately needed.”
This new funding continues The Rivers Trust’s central role in forging green finance opportunities, as it was a lead partner on the Wyre Natural Flood Management Investment Readiness Project, which has been an NEIRF pilot project and is now set to invest £1.5m to protect communities at risk of flooding in Lancashire.
Replenishing Nature: making it easier for business to invest in water – £87,482
This project will establish a formulised Water Stewardship metric to make it easier for businesses to invest in water. By establishing a standardised approach to measuring the environmental outcomes of water stewardship activity, Replenish will make the nature-based solutions marketplace more accessible to buyers, namely corporate businesses who are reliant on water for their operations. Nature-based solutions such as the installation of wetlands and sustainable drainage help to counter over-abstraction and address issues of water scarcity by retaining and returning water to the natural environment.
Replenish; a Volumetric Water Benefit (VWB) accounting tool will be used as a mechanism to attract more businesses to pay money towards implementing nature-based solutions. A new user-friendly interface and warehousing tool allowing businesses to explore trading opportunities will be tested in five pilot catchments, including ones with ecologically rare chalk streams, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The pilot catchments for the project are:
- Cam, Ely and Ouse Catchments (CamEO) and Broadlands
- Upper Medway
- Wye and Usk
- Thames and tributaries
Alex Adam, Head of Water Stewardship at The Rivers Trust, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity to scale up an approach that is already being used by many global corporates as part of their water stewardship strategies and to develop an investment portfolio of shovel-ready projects that use a variety of nature-based solutions that will support the resilience of our catchments and the health of our rivers.”
Establishing commercial governance & future trades for the Eden catchment market – £96,838
This project aims to accelerate £10m of demand-led investment over the next five years to deliver nature-based solutions in the Eden catchment and ecosystem benefits to achieve: sustainable water and land management, reduction of nutrient pollution into watercourses, restoration of freshwater habitats, flood and climate change resilience, and Biodiversity Net Gain.
Stakeholders in the Eden catchment have already piloted an innovative and successful market for ecosystem services through the Landscape Enterprise Networks (LENs) approach, convened by the sustainability advisory firm 3Keel. The creation of a dedicated governance structure led by a not-for-profit entity, and an investment pipeline for this market will facilitate private sector investment in nature-based solutions for the Eden catchment, which is a Special Area of Conservation but faces a number of water-related challenges. This framework will increase both the measurability of environmental interventions funded through the private sector, and the scale at which they can be enacted.
Amina Aboobakar, Commercial Director at The Rivers Trust, said: “This offers an exciting opportunity for us to build on the great work already happening in the Eden, by aligning and maximising business-led investment to deliver environmental improvements to support the catchment and its communities to become more resilient to climate change and other threats, whilst also stimulating green growth in the area.”