Emma Davies l Palladium - Jun 07 2023
For Nature Restoration, What's Working in the UK Could Work in Europe

Emma is Senior Partnership Manager for Palladium’s Nature Based Solutions platform. In this role she works to develop partnerships with businesses and organisations to design and develop commercially-attractive business models that that protect, sustainably manage and restore nature. 

Europe is home to over 500 national parks, 900 nature regional landscape parks, more than 25,000 Nature 2000 sites, a network of protected sites for rare and threatened species, and rare natural habitats. Together, these Protected Areas cover hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, and are home to areas rich in biodiversity.

But like much of the world’s natural landscapes, they’re at risk from climate change. There is an enormous amount of potential in these natural landscapes to contribute to the European Commission’s targets to restore 20% of land and sea by 2030, and all ecosystems by 2050. They could play a critical role in capturing and storing carbon, reducing the impact of climate change – but it will require significant investment.

In March, the EUROPARC Federation, the network for Europe’s Parks and Protected Areas, held their annual Siggen Seminar, an opportunity for decision makers and technicians to share experience and come up with new management practises. At the seminar, I and other members of Palladium’s Revere and the EUROPARC’s management team hosted a workshop with participants from 12 countries to explore ways to unlock private finance for nature restoration at the scale and pace needed to meet the ambitious goals set out by the EU.

Traditionally, these parks have funded their nature restoration through a combination of EU, national, regional, and local government funds. While some of these parks have started testing innovative financing approaches, it was exciting to help paint a clear picture of the scale of opportunity that Protected Areas and the natural capital they hold can offer.

The workshop took a deeper look at the models that attract private finance to unlock and drive nature restoration at scale, in particular, looking at the role that Protected Areas can play in building the market for investing in Europe’s natural capital. We shared lessons from Revere, a partnership between Palladium and the UK National Parks to use private finance to restore nature in a way that creates livelihoods opportunities for farmers and landowners. Revere, which has launched 14 restoration pilots, is proving that attracting investments to restore national parks is possible.

The particular context in Europe and with the EUROPARC members means that they can create a shared restoration vision – and there’s plenty to do in identifying cross boundary opportunities and collaborations.

In 2019, the European Commission announced the launch of the European Green Deal, a plan to transform the EU into a modern, resource efficient, and competitive economy. Critically, nature plays a key role in that deal and emphasises the importance of exploring new business and investment models that reward climate-friendly land management (“carbon farming”) and create new income opportunities for farmers and foresters.

But reaching the goals of that deal will be impossible without attracting private finance to fund nature restoration projects at scale.

There are a few issues that are slowing progress down; often, investors and conservationists speak different languages and are driven by different goals and incentives. Investors are typically looking for large scale investment opportunities that will deliver both the commercial and environmental returns they need. But those vehicles and funds that create larger scale investment opportunities by bringing together a portfolio of investable projects aren’t yet available for investors to deploy their capital into nature in Europe.

By the end of the workshop, participants had come together and issued a statement with commitments to develop an innovative financing model to tackle restoration in European parks. “Looking beyond our boundaries, working across biogeographical zones, and utilising national and regional protected area network, we commit to collective thinking and action in order to access the billions of ethical finances available. Partnerships with the financial sector is a necessity,” says the statement.

This is an exciting opportunity to do something much larger in terms of geographical scale than in the UK. We’ve been talking to individual parks and EUROPARC, and we’re thrilled to share what we’ve learned and help inspire them to start their own journeys toward turning conservation ambitions into investable opportunities.

The commitment statement, which was signed by representatives from eight countries (including Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, and Scotland), set out the process to begin a two-year project to map and analyse the market actors, the demand for ecosystem services, and the policy environment. This includes looking at carbon mechanisms and codes to support the design of high-quality natural capital projects and identifying pilot sites.

Ultimately, our goal is to create as much impact as possible. So, we were eager to share what we’ve learned through Revere and to bring together a group of people with different experiences and insights to create new ideas. We don't have all of the answers, and we are still learning. But as more and more organisations and investors start to participate in natural capital markets, the more those markets will develop and mature, further unlocking the value of nature – one of our best answers to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

For more, read 'Closing the Finance Gap for Nature-Based Solutions in the United States' or contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.