7th July, 14:00 - 16:00 BST
The Nature-based Solutions Initiative (NbSI) and The National Trust

8B. Scaling up NbS in the UK – what is the role of Government in supporting practitioners?

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Session summary

Session 8B, Scaling up NbS in the UK – what is the role of Government in supporting practitioners?, brought together a diversity of experts from important stakeholder groups in the UK, including from the National Trust, Defra, Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts, the National Farmers Union (NFU), and the RSPB, as well as academics and practitioners, to explore the steps the UK government, landowners and land managers can take to deliver on the UK’s net-zero target, nature recovery and climate change adaptation.

Alexandre Chausson and Alison Smith highlighted the guidelines for high-quality NbS, and presented results from an analysis of the enablers & barriers for scaling up high quality NbS in the UK. NbS can help address 33 out of the 34 key climate risks identified. The main barriers and enablers were found to be:

  • Lack of information sharing – addressed through demonstration sites, training courses, information hubs
  • Lack of funding & financing (including unsuitable economic models and short-termism) – addressed through larger scale demonstrations
  • Landscape and seascape governance (including diverse stakeholder priorities and siloed decision-making) – addressed through collaborative governance
  • Conflicting policy goals – addressed through standards and strong, well-resourced strategies
  • Ecosystem pressures (including risks of reversals & uncertainty) – addressed through stronger regulations and incentives for ecosystem protection

Key policy recommendations included the need to integrate a wider range of NbS types into national adaptation plans (for instance, seagrass and agroforestry were severely lacking); mainstreaming NbS by developing coherent & joined-up policies across all sectors (including changing licensing regulations to enable streamlining); fund not only the NbS itself but also the knowledge exchange, education, research and communications around it; set standards for high-quality and resilient NbS (eg. UK standards on green roofs and SuDS); and strengthen institutional capacity for measuring and monitoring NbS delivery, including defining suitable indicators & metrics beyond carbon.

We next heard about two best-practice case studies of NbS in the UK: Highlands Rewilding from Ben Hart and the Medmerry managed realignment project from Michael Copleston. Highlands Rewilding is an innovative leader in natural capital verification science and aims to meaningfully increase carbon sequestration and biodiversity, increase local employment, become sustainably profitable through community involvement in rewilding and innovative financing. They plan to monetize natural capital through ecotourism and corporate retreats, carbon and biodiversity credits, and government incentive programs. While Highlands Rewilding is still in its first years and has focused on obtaining baseline metrics, Medmerry, where 183 hectares of intertidal saltmarsh and mudflat habitat was restored, has been a famed success story for over 10 years, reducing the annual flood risk from 100% to 0.1%, saving an estimated £78 million.

Next we heard from Mike Moorecroft about the role of government agencies in scaling up NbS in the UK, who emphasised the importance of science, policy and implementation to come together more to avoid the risk of maladaptation and environmental damage from some land-based approaches.

“Science and implementation need to come together, with ‘learning by doing’” – Mike Moorecroft

Michael and the following speaker, Andrea Graham, spoke about the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) and its potential to support NbS post-Brexit, though the lack of clarity and concerns over the validity and compatibility of different schemes, including public schemes and private ones such as voluntary carbon and biodiversity offsets, makes farmers nervous. To address this ‘wild west’ of carbon credit markets and different funding streams, we must develop clear standards, ensure fair rewards and help with upfront transition and capital costs, make schemes accessible across a wide diversity of farm sizes and tenure types, develop policy coherence and compatibility, and avoid leakage to other parts of the world.

Instilling confidence in investors, land managers and farmers that NbS will deliver on its promised returns is crucial, and this requires further evidence from pilot studies and from large-scale projects, as well as community engagement and knowledge sharing. Olly Watts and Kathryn Brown stressed the importance of NbS for climate adaptation in the UK, including mapping risks and opportunities, and how NbS is an excellent opportunity to bridge siloes and integrate climate and biodiversity together, while achieving multiple benefits. Lastly, Yaadwinder Sidhu spoke about taking a holistic approach to understanding the behaviour and decision-making of land managers and landowners, investing time in building relationships with the local communities to ensure multifunctional land-use.issues around visibility and inclusion of UK local communities are discussed, including crafting management objectives to increase public benefit and engagement, and better deliver benefits locally.

Key take-homes

  • Multifunctional land-use is needed, alongside overcoming a blinkered focus on a subset of outputs.
  • There are information gaps to overcome, but already a number of strong case-studies.
  • NbS are insufficiently integrated in broader plans, and there is a lack of policy coherence.
  • There is potential for private finance, with significant interest in carbon/biodiversity offsets, but standards are currently lacking.
  • Government funding also remains key, but there is insufficient clarity over many emerging schemes.
  • There are issues around visibility and inclusion of UK local communities. Management objectives should be crafted to increase public benefit and engagement, and better deliver benefits locally.


  • Rosie Hails 's photo

    Rosie Hails

    Director of Science and Nature at the National Trust

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    The role of partnership in scaling up NBS

    Professor Rosie Hails MBE FRSB is an ecologist and Nature and Science Director at the National Trust, holding honorary chairs at Exeter and Cranfield Universities. Her role is to develop the Trust’s nature strategy, research portfolio and advise on science evidence relevant to Trust decision making. She leads teams focusing on Nature Conservation, Trees & Woods, Wildlife Management, Land Use, Farming and Public Benefits delivered by Nature. She is a member of Defra’s Science Advisory Council, chairing the Biodiversity Targets Advisory Group, a member of Defra’s bovine TB partnership, Council member of the RSPB, Chair of the Woodmeadow Trust Steering Group and Trustee of the John Innes Foundation.

  • Alexandre Chausson 's photo

    Alexandre Chausson

    Senior Researcher at the Nature-based Solutions Initiative

    Alex manages and collaborates on the delivery of several research and knowledge-exchange outputs for the Nature-based Solutions Initiative. This includes a systematic review of the evidence base on the effectiveness Nature-based Solutions for climate change adaptation and collaborating on the design and generating content for the Nature-based Solutions Initiative platform. His aim is to support innovative interdisciplinary research and the development of transdisciplinary collaborations as pathways to impact at the nexus of development, climate change, and biodiversity issues. He has a background in biology (BA Rutgers U., 2009) and ecology (MSc U. Lausanne, 2012), and an interdisciplinary MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College (2016).

  • Alison Smith's photo

    Alison Smith

    Senior Researcher at the Nature-based Solutions Initiative

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    Alison Smith is a Senior Research Associate at the Environmental Change Institute. She is interested in using interdisciplinary research to find and promote solutions that tackle multiple environmental, economic and social problems. Her current work focuses mainly on natural capital, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, nature-based solutions and the multiple benefits of climate adaptation and mitigation actions. Alison is currently leading the Sprint on Scaling up NbS in the UK, as part of the Oxford Agile Initiative. Prior to joining the ECI, Alison worked for 15 years as a senior environmental consultant, specializing in climate change, transport, energy and waste management policy.

  • Ben Hart 's photo

    Ben Hart

    Carbon and Biodiversity Accounting Consultant at Highlands Rewilding

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    An Introduction to Highlands Rewilding

    Ben is a Chartered Energy Manager and the Carbon and Biodiversity Accounting Consultant at Highlands Rewilding, where he has spent the last 2 years leading on the development of the natural capital baseline and monitoring programme across 2 x estates in the Scottish Highlands. He is also the Head of Operations at Nattergal - a new partnership with Knepp Wildland aiming to scale Rewilding activities across the UK and beyond. Before pivoting into the natural capital space, Ben spent 13 years as a carbon and sustainability consultant, working with large public and private sector organisations to develop carbon strategies and deliver reduction programmes on their road to Net-Zero.

  • Michael Copleston 's photo

    Michael Copleston

    Head of Land in England for RSPB

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    Medmerry Project

    Michael Copleston is Head of Land, England at the RSPB and much of his work involves looking at the opportunities to improve the fortunes of nature through a variety of conservation delivery mechanisms, from projects and programmes such as the OxCam Arc, through to supporting standards for making nature reserves bigger, better and more connected where possible. Before this role, he was working with the RSPB on major projects in the Midlands region since 2014 as Area Manager to revitalise important landscapes or National Nature Reserves with big visitor destination potential - this has culminated in current work on the Sherwood Forest new visitor facilities and NNR management.

  • Mike Morecroft 's photo

    Mike Morecroft

    Principal Specialist, Climate Change at Natural England

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    Mike Morecroft is an ecologist at government conservation agency, Natural England, where he leads work on climate change adaptation and mitigation.As the public body's principle specialist on climate change, he is a scientist who works closely with policy makers and practitioners on a range of issues including carbon storage and sequestration by habitats, nature reserve management and adaptation to climate change. In addition, Morecroft is a lead author on ecosystems for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and has published over 140 scientific papers, reports and book chapters. Recently, Morecroft led Natural England's year-long study of the ability of England's landscape and natural stores of carbon to help mitigate the country's emissions.

  • Andrea Graham's photo

    Andrea Graham

    Head of Policy Services at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU)
    NFU perspective on policy barriers and opportunities for NbS in agriculture

    Andrea joined the NFU in 2007 after 18 years working as an agricultural research scientist at the Universities of Reading and Warwick. As Head of the Land Use & Innovation Department since 2014, Andrea leads the NFU's national cross sector policy work. The department covers a broad portfolio including science, regulation, environment, climate change and renewable energy, tenancy, rural crime and land management. She is also the lead author on the NFU’s “Future of Food 2040” report published in February 2019.

  • Olly Watts's photo

    Olly Watts

    Senior Climate Change Policy Officer at RSPB

    Olly leads on adaptation policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), working to ensure that nature and our natural environment are able to meet the challenges of climate change. He has helped shape the approaches and requirements for adaptation for nature, stemming from involvement in impacts assessment work and the early development of climate envelope modelling. His policy influence has helped inform both national and European policy, as well as the RSPB’s own practical adaptation across its nature reserves, landscape and species work. With 25 years’ experience at the RSPB, Olly also has a long term interest in peatlands, sustainability and greening and he has led carbon reduction at the RSPB.

  • Kathryn Brown's photo

    Kathryn Brown

    Director of Climate Action at The Wildlife Trusts and former Head of the Adaptation Committee at the Climate Change Committee

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    Implementing nature-based solutions in The Wildlife Trusts for climate change mitigation and adaptation

    Kathryn Brown OBE is Director of Climate Action at The Wildlife Trusts. Brown has a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and a masters in International Development from University College London and was a research fellow at Imperial College London. She worked for 10 years at Defra as a Senior Scientific Officer on climate change adaptation evidence and carbon budgets. She worked for The Climate Change Committee (CCC) advising the UK Government. She led the production of progress reports to Parliament and government, on topics of health, biodiversity, climate emergency planning, agriculture, water and forestry including the Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk which includes extensive analysis of evidence gathered by the Committee from 130 organisations. She was awarded an OBE for her services to climate change research in the New Year's Honours list in 2022.

  • Yaadwinder Sidhu's photo

    Yaadwinder Sidhu

    Land use, Food and Net Zero Systems, Office of Chief Scientific Adviser, Defra
    Enabling Net-Zero: understanding systemic behaviours and interdependencies

    Yaadwinder Sidhu works in Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser's Office and co-leads the Defra Systems Research Programme. He is applying systems research methods to better understand and work with complexity within Defra's areas of interest.