Businesses have been called upon to trial and pilot 'nature-based solutions' (NBS) in helping them reduce environmental impacts while helping the surrounding areas improve resiliency against a range of climate risks.
That is the call to action from a new report from the Ignition project, a collaborative group of organisations aimed at developing NBS in the Greater Manchester area.
The report titled ‘Nature-based solutions to the climate emergency: The benefits to business and society’ breaks down the benefits of natural solutions that can assist in combatting the climate crisis.
The report breaks down the benefits of solutions such as sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and green spaces. Benefits of solutions are based on resource use, improved biodiversity, health and wellbeing, socio-economic impacts and contributions to reducing emissions.
Key findings listed in the report include that SuDS can retain 60-72% of rainwater run off, improving resiliency against flooding risks as a result. Lining urban streets with trees can reduce air temperatures by 3C, while green roofs and green walls can deliver energy savings of 7% and 8% respectively. On the socio-economic front, the report fount that green spaces can help improve property values by up to 9.5%.
The organisations involved in the Ignition project – backed by €4.5m from the EU’s Urban Innovation Actions (UIA) initiative - include Business in the Community, City of Trees, Environment Agency, Groundwork, Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, UK Green Building Council, United Utilities, University of Manchester and University of Salford.
The organisations involved want the report to provide data-led solutions that can inform business decisions on how to use NBS and how they can contribute to wider business strategies.
Specifically, the report highlights the benefits of using NBS across the built environment, a sector that is ramping up efforts to incorporate NBS as part of environmental stewardship efforts.
Alastair Mant, Head of Business Transformation at UKGBC commented: “An increasing number of building developers and owners are setting ambitious targets on carbon reduction, climate resilience, and increasing biodiversity.
“The data in this report illustrates how nature-based solutions can help achieve all of these, as well as provide social and financial benefits. I hope this report, and the detailed evidence base that underpins it, enables all those in the property and construction value chain to use more nature-based solutions in the projects they are involved with, be it in new construction or the improvement of existing assets.”
Some developers already follow a biodiversity net-gain approach voluntarily. Among them are Berkeley Group, Balfour Beatty and Warwickshire County Council. Moreover, almost half (44%) of UKGBC gold leaf members have created a biodiversity strategy.
Ecology consultancy EPR has unveiled a support package for developers striving to meet the UK Government's housing targets while going beyond compliance with the new Environment Bill's biodiversity net-gain requirements.
This first report argues that the tools which developers have been given to measure biodiversity and implement net-gain are “fundamentally flawed”, in that they permit external offsetting and that they “are built on generalised assumptions of the importance of habitats that, in many cases, do not adequately take into account factors such as the wildlife that rely on them and regional variations in the habitats themselves”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget has promised a £640m Nature For Climate Fund. The Fund will back tree planting and peatland restoration projects across England, in order to spur carbon sequestration in line with the Government’s 2050 net-zero target.
Once the Fund is in full swing, Sunak has promised that the Treasury will launch a Nature Recovery Network Fund that will enable businesses and local communities to collaborate on existing wildlife restoration projects. A Natural Environment Impact Fund to help “prepare green projects that could be suitable for commercial investment” is also in the pipeline.