Green light for UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in nature-based solutions, following Treasury concession

Nature-based solutions will be explicitly included on the face of a bill setting up the UK Infrastructure Bank, following a last minute concession from the government which has the potential to unlock “significant investment in natural capital”, according to peers.

The UK Infrastructure Bank Bill, which is in its final stages of its Parliamentary journey, will complete the establishment of the government-owned UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB). 

According to the bank’s website, it is set to provide £22 billion of infrastructure finance “to finance a green industrial revolution”, tackle climate change, and support regional and local economic growth.

On 14 March, during debate in the House of Lords, the government accepted an amendment tabled by Baroness Hayman, which will see nature-based solutions included within the definition of ‘infrastructure’ for the UKIB. This explicitly confirms that the bank will be able to invest in such projects.

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Baroness Penn, the Treasury minister, told peers that the government had previously noted that nature-based solutions were already included under the bill’s “inclusive definition of infrastructure” and therefore did not need to be explicitly included on the face of the bill. 

However, she continued: “The government have reflected on the debate and recognise the strength of feeling on the matter and, as such, think the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, strikes a careful balance of making it clear that nature-based solutions are within the bank’s remit without being overly prescriptive.”

The House of Lords’ Climate and Biodiversity Action Group, also known as Peers for the Planet, said  including nature-based solutions on the face of the bill “has the potential to unlock significant investment in natural capital”.

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“It provides a strong signal to the bank and other market participants from the outset that the UK recognises the critical role nature plays in UK infrastructure, and that the government is taking action to help build and develop this nascent market,” the group said.

The day following the acceptance of the amendment, the UKIB also announced that it will make its first ever investment in the water sector, stating that it would provide a loan of £50 million to finance “a new environmentally-led storage reservoir” for the South of England.

UKIB said that Portsmouth Water had committed to “planting and improving more than 200 hectares of woodland and wood pasture in the area, as well as creating a new green leisure facility comprising a wetland, visitor centre and a network of footpaths, cycling routes and bridleways around the site”.

The bank said that as well as boosting regional and local economic growth, the reservoir is intended to reduce reliance on chalk streams during periods of drought and increased water usage.