A new paper from the National Infrastructure Commission calls on infrastructure developers to target environmental net gain and reverse natural capital decline – something the LI has long argued for

Cover image from Natural Capital and Environmental Net Gain: A discussion paper, NIC, February 2021

A new discussion paper from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) calls on developers to consider the environmental impact of infrastructure projects, and for developments to contribute to environmental net gain and reverse natural capital decline.

The Landscape Institute (LI) welcomes the paper, which explicitly addresses the first priority in our Autumn 2020 Greener Recovery¬†policy paper: to ‘take a natural capital approach to new infrastructure and housing investment’.

‘Infrastructure developers should consider the impact of infrastructure development on natural capital assets and take the opportunities to contribute to the environment and biodiversity as part of development,’ argues the NIC. ‘Infrastructure projects should target environmental net gain, ensuring that infrastructure developers leave the environment in measurably better state than they found it.’

The LI has been arguing for such an approach to all infrastructure delivery, calling for the government to invest in projects that are not just ‘shovel-ready’, but ‘shovel-worthy‘.

Public investment should not fund unsustainable, unhealthy, poorly designed
places that impede our ability to meet our 2050 net zero target. Government investment in infrastructure more broadly must take a natural capital approach, and ensure it delivers an environmental net gain. Green infrastructure projects can generate economic returns while providing a means of restoring nature and delivering ecosystem services.

Next steps: Natural capital principles

The report sets out the NIC’s strategic position. Following its publication, the NIC plans to develop a set of natural capital principles for national infrastructure – similar to its design principles – to help developers establish how their projects can deliver environmental net gain.

The LI warmly welcomes the publication of this discussion paper, and looks forward to collaborating with the NIC on the development of natural capital principles that deliver the very best for people, place and nature.

Find out more and download the report at nic.org.uk.

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