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West Midlands Natural Environment Plan: 2021 - 2026


Funding and Financing

The scale of this challenge will require significant levels of new investment in natural capital. Public sector funding sources will continue to play an important role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment. However, for us to achieve our goals it is critical that more private sector investment is also leveraged. Over the next 12 -18 months, the WMCA will work with all regional stakeholders, and national government, to identify ways to re-wire the financing of actions that help enhance our natural environment. We will also work to identify new sources of investment, some of which are described in this section.

The green finance landscape is changing, we need to engage with this to convert challenges into opportunities. Issues around nature need to be part of a ‘whole place’ approach to development and bringing smaller funding pots together where appropriate to do so. The funding and financing for natural environment schemes will be developed on a project-by-project basis. Some of the delivery could be funded through traditional grant-based approaches. Each of these schemes has different scale and criteria, some of which would be more appropriate for delivery partners to apply for.

The main ones that are currently available include:

  • Potential to apply for Environmental Land Management Scheme18, particularly in relation to local nature recovery and landscape recovery.

  • National Lottery Heritage Fund for wider landscape schemes

  • Health and wellbeing funding routes, e.g. social prescribing

  • Potential funding options through DEFRA e.g. NEIRF (Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund19), Nature for Climate Fund.

In addition to support for natural environment programmes in the constituent local authorities, there is also the potential to work with non- constituent Combined Authority councils to encourage West Midlands farmers and landowners outside the main urban areas to improve nature on their land, by taking advantage of the new post- Brexit agricultural subsidy regime

There is also the potential to consider new financial solutions for nature that take us beyond a grant- based approach. These sources could include:

  • Crowdfunding models
  • Private finance models e.g. through river catchment partnerships
  • Both commercial and non-commercial tree planting funds
  • Locally developed initiatives e.g. co-operatives, community interest companies
  • Including the natural environment as part of a wider systems approach to net zero, e.g. in ‘zero carbon neighbourhoods as a service’ approaches.

Finally, as mentioned in Section 3.1, WMCA will be rolling out a programme of Community Green Grants to boost nature, and promote biodiversity net gain across the region, as well as addressing the inequality of access to green space that the New Economics Foundation work identified. The grants scheme will support work with delivery partners across the West Midlands to provide community grants to roll out projects to create, enhance and improve access to green space. We would work with local authorities and environmental NGOs whose expertise would ensure that the right schemes are delivered in the right places.

Structure for delivery

To support delivery of the Natural Environment Plan the WMCA will convene a Natural Capital Board for the region, to bring together stakeholders to co-ordinate action. This will include a wide range of issues, including: tree planting, taking a leading role on nature recovery and work to support funding and roll out of Community Green Grants. Delivery will happen in conjunction with local partners and working with large scale projects like the Commonwealth Games and HS2.

The Natural Capital Board will sit alongside other significant WMCA boards, recognising the importance of this area of activity in enhancing the future prosperity of the region. The Natural Capital Board and the Net Zero Infrastructure Delivery Board will report directly to the Environment and Energy Board, and will have direct accountability to this Board.

For the other WMCA thematic boards, there is not a formal reporting route into the Environment and Energy Board, but a clear reflection that they have an input to make into the environment and energy agenda and to the successful delivery of the WM2041 ambitions. In the same way, we would expect the work programme of the Natural Capital Board to be of interest to other thematic boards on an issue-by-issue basis.

The diagram shown here is a representation of how the governance will operate, recognising that there is no way of perfectly representing the reality in action. The Natural Capital Board will follow the governance arrangements of other WMCA boards. All board reports will be publicly available.

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