New Toolkit will empower farmers to assess nature market opportunities

  • The Green Finance Institute has published a free, interactive Farming Toolkit – commissioned by Defra – to equip and empower the farming community to understand nature markets (such as carbon credits and biodiversity net gain) and help them assess whether they could provide a suitable new income stream for their business.
  • The resource can help farmers attract private sector finance to pay for additional improvements to the natural environment, supporting them with access to the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF), the third round of which makes funding available exclusively to farmers.
  • Farmers are the custodians of the countryside, managing 70% of land and are on the frontlines of delivering environmental improvements.

The Green Finance Institute (GFI) has today published the “Farming Toolkit for Assessing Opportunities in Nature Markets”. This free, independent resource will equip UK farming communities with an understanding of nature markets, such as Carbon Credits, Biodiversity Net Gain and Nutrient Neutrality, and support them with their eligibility for NEIRF funding. With this information, farmers will be able to assess if nature markets are right for them.

The Toolkit was designed and tested with a diverse group of over 100 farmers, representing various farm sizes, agricultural sectors, ownership structures, and regions. It provides a framework for farmers to identify and assess nature market opportunities. It includes an introductory guide to nature markets and glossary, and detailed step-by-step guidance from assessing land, through engaging with other farmers, to attracting buyers and the final selling of credits or units. Case studies of farmers already engaging in nature markets accompany each milestone, as do useful resources and audio clips.

Given that farmers are the custodians of the countryside, managing 70% of land, they are central to supporting the UK meeting its environmental targets by transitioning to nature-positive and low-emission farming practices. Some 11% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK are from agriculture, putting farmers on the frontlines of the net zero transition. Nature markets offer one of several opportunities for farmers to be paid to deliver additional environmental improvements, thereby diversifying income streams and boosting resilience.

The Farming Toolkit was developed in partnership with Defra, the Environment Agency and in consultation with farmers and supports the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) Round 3 process. NEIRF is a project development fund that is run by the EA and Defra, which provides grants to help nature restoration project managers, land managers and environmental NGOs to explore how private finance can be channelled into nature, including through nature markets. The third round of NEIRF funding is aimed specifically at farmers, with applications closing 16 February 2024.

The Toolkit builds upon findings from the GFI’s Financing a Farming Transition report (March 2023), which identified a lack of clarity on nature markets as a barrier to financing the transition to more sustainable agriculture.

Andy Slaney, NEIRF Programme Manager, Environment Agency, said, “Understanding the opportunities that nature markets provide can feel like a daunting prospect. This pioneering GFI Farming Toolkit is an invaluable resource for the farming community when considering how to enhance nature and improve the climate resilience of their businesses whilst seeking to maintain a suitable income. We want nature markets to help the farming community transition to a sustainable state, this Toolkit will help anyone embarking on that journey.”

George Dunn, Chief Executive at the Tenant Farmers Association, said, “It is of vital importance that farmers are rewarded for their work in delivering environmental outcomes and the management of natural capital. It is sad that in most cases, food markets and other markets for agricultural produce do not routinely factor in the environmental management costs involved. To date, farmers have been rewarded, to some extent through public funding but it is now good to see private markets being developed. In landlord tenant situations it will be essential to ensure that tenant farmers have fair access to any private funding available for the environmental work they carry out. They must not be displaced by private sector agreements with landlords which side-line the legitimate and important interests of tenant farmers.”

View the GFI’s Farming toolkit for assessing nature market opportunities

Read the Green Finance Institute’s report, Financing a Farming Transition

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