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Pilot scheme to bring private investment into nature projects

Published: Monday 22 May 2023

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been chosen as one of just four areas in the UK to draw up new ways of bringing more private sector investment into local projects that can help protect nature and tackle climate change.

In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has set the goal of raising £1bn a year of private money into nature recovery by 2030. 

To test ways of achieving that, the WMCA will work with regional stakeholders to develop a pipeline of projects that have the scale and impact needed to attract significant levels of investment and help deliver the priorities set out in the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan.

The WMCA is the only major urban area to be chosen for DEFRA’s two-year Local Investment in Natural Capital (LINC) programme as greater environmental responsibilities are set to be transferred from Whitehall to the region as part of the recently announced Deeper Devolution Deal.

Importantly, the potential investment secured as part of the programme will also enable the WMCA to deliver more nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, the development of a local nature recovery strategy, and improvements to air quality.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “We know the private sector wants to invest in nature, so I’m really pleased our region will be part of this pilot scheme to make it easier for that to happen here in the West Midlands.

“This is crucial because everyone benefits from a thriving natural environment, whether that’s through improved health and wellbeing, new skills, and jobs, or by mitigating the effects of climate change.

“We are already supporting locally-led projects through our Community Green Grants fund which are creating urban pocket parks, supporting community growing ventures, restoring rivers, and driving tree planting. But we know we can do more on a bigger scale if we can unlock significant levels of new investment.”

In the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan, the WMCA and its partners set out how they intend to enhance the region's biodiversity, protect endangered species, and improve access to green spaces and waterways for residents.

Priority actions identified include widening access to green and blue spaces for all communities, increasing tree and hedgerow planting, promoting wildlife and other natural corridors, and supporting climate mitigation and adaptation.

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA’s portfolio holder for environment and energy, and leader of Solihull Council, said: “Great strides are already being taken to address the significant environmental inequality that we know exists across the West Midlands and we are ambitious to do more and on a bigger scale.

“Attracting new investment in natural capital will help us to accelerate what we’re doing to tackle the climate, air quality and ecological emergencies, as well as greening our housing, skills and transport network.”

The two-year Local Investment in Natural Capital (LINC) programme is delivered by the Environment Agency. The other three UK pilot areas are Cornwall; Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland & Furness; and York and North Yorkshire.

Read the West Midlands Natural Environment Plan.

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