The New Forest National Park Authority has been awarded £100,000 to develop a project that will drive private investment in nature and help tackle the climate crisis.

Working in partnership with Palladium, a company specialising in identifying innovative solutions to environmental issues, the National Park Authority will use the funding to develop and trial a new model that can contribute to restoring nature in the National Park, with potential to replicate the approach across the UK.

The pilot project involving the Barker-Mill and Cadland Estates will look at where arable farmland and low-quality grasslands could be turned into woodlands and wetlands to enhance nature, capture carbon, improve water quality and extend these benefits to the Open Forest.

The project will then work out how much economic value these environmental benefits provide for people, what they cost to deliver, and how much investment is needed to get started. This model will contribute to the creation of a green market for environmental services and will stimulate private sector funding for nature improvements in the National Park.

The New Forest NPA is one of 27 organisations across England awarded up to £100,000 each as part of this ground-breaking £10 million Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund from Defra, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

The funding will be used to develop the projects to the point they can provide a return on investment by capturing the value of carbon sequestration, water quality improvements, biodiversity and other benefits provided by natural assets such as woodlands, peatlands, river catchments and landscapes.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

‘To tackle the environmental challenges we face from climate change and biodiversity loss, it is crucial that domestic natural environment projects are able to attract private investment alongside support from the public sector.

‘Unleashing innovation and growing new sources of finance, such as through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, are fundamental for delivering nature recovery and developing nature-based solutions to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.’

Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd said:

‘With the right structure, nature-based projects can be scaled up by private finance, helping to reduce emissions, prepare for climate shocks and create jobs.

‘From a new business model for multi-functional forestry in Yorkshire, to an investment fund to transform farmland in Norfolk, these projects will provide evidence of funding models to make industries fit for the future, reach net zero by 2050, and create a nature positive future.

‘With COP26 coming to the UK this year, this demonstrates how to create investable propositions for nature-based solutions to the climate emergency.’

Professor Gavin Parker, Chair of the National Park Authority, said:

‘Securing the grant is great news. The pilot will help accelerate the development of markets for environmental services here in the Solent area and we are excited to be working with Palladium and partners to develop this innovative approach over the next 12 months.

‘There is a demand from government, communities and the commercial sector for environmental services such as carbon sequestration, better wildlife habitats, clean water and reduction of flood risk. Landowners can deliver these solutions, if there is a revenue stream that incentivises them to do so.

‘The grant enables us to take the lead on tackling climate change across the National Park by developing innovative solutions to our twin environmental crises: climate change and biodiversity loss. Delivering nature-based climate solutions is key to meeting climate change goals and this funding will provide a key mechanism to help finance these ambitions.’

Andrew Sutherland, Palladium’s Director of Nature-based Solutions, said pilots such as these are critical steps towards the future, especially ahead of the UN ‘COP26’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this autumn.

He said: ‘These types of pilots are going to be more important now than ever in helping to restore nature in the UK – particularly in leveraging much needed private finance and contributing towards building a natural capital market.

‘Conversations are taking place with a diverse range of companies who are also close to committing to support this new approach to nature restoration and we will announce more pilots before COP26.’