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The Nature Recovery Network: what is it, where did it come from and why is it important?

Jon Moore, Principal Consultant in Sweco’s Environment & Sustainability team, has been seconded to IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment) for six months for an exciting opportunity as Business & Nature Recovery Lead, working closely with Natural England to promote the Nature Recovery Network (NRN) to businesses across England. Here, Jon talks about the origins and importance of this exciting sustainability initiative…

What exactly is the Nature Recovery Network?

The Nature Recovery Network (NRN) is a single, national network of wildlife-rich places. It will benefit both people and wildlife by increasing, improving and joining-up wildlife-rich places across our towns, cities, countryside, and coast.

Its fundamental aim is to create more  wildlife areas that are bigger, better and more joined-up – improving our landscape’s resilience to climate change and enabling species to move and thrive while supporting livelihoods and the local economy. Its delivery will help to provide environmental equity within cities, including the provision of ‘green infrastructure’.

Through increasing and enhancing existing wildlife-rich places and sites designated for new nature conservation initiatives, the NRN will reinforce the natural and cultural diversity of our landscapes, help to protect their historic environments, and enable us to enjoy and connect with nature where we live, work and play – benefiting our health and wellbeing. The NRN is a major commitment outlined in the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (25 YEP), with key elements of the Network now enshrined in law by The Environment Act 2021.

Ultimately, the NRN will help us deal with three of the biggest challenges we face, and increase benefits that nature can provide for both people and the economy:

  • Biodiversity loss
  • Climate change
  • Wellbeing

The 25 YEP objectives of the Nature Recovery Network

  • Restore 75% of protected sites on land (including freshwaters) to favourable condition
  • Provide natural solutions that reduce carbon and manage flood risk
  • Sustain vital ecosystems that support improved soil, clean water, and clean air
  • Create or restore 500,000 hectares of additional wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites
  • Recover threatened and iconic species by providing more, diverse, and better-connected habitats
  • Increase woodland cover
  • Achieve a range of wider sustainability benefits such as carbon capture, flood management, clean water, pollination and recreation
  • Improve landscape resilience to climate change

Business has an important role to play in supporting nature recovery, and there is a real desire from the private sector to do this. Jon’s crucial work will help to create the fruitful, longstanding partnerships which are needed to recover nature coherently and at scale. It will also help to ensure that business needs are listened to so that the NRN can support businesses in meeting their wider sustainability targets in return.

Jamie Lock Natural England, Nature Recovery Team

How the Nature Recovery Network will be established

  1. Spatially prioritise – putting in place Local Nature Recovery Strategies to effectively target action and investment for nature
  2. Integrate – our goals for nature with funding streams and land management duties that will incentivise the restoration and creation of habitats that will help deliver the NRN
  3. Collaborate – develop supporting partnerships to use these tools and incentives to deliver action for nature.

Why is the NRN so important for businesses?

The UK is considered to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with on average about half of its biodiversity left, meaning it is in the bottom 10% globally for biodiversity. The aim of the NRN is to bring together partners, legislation and funding to restore and enhance the natural environment by creating a national network of more, improved and better connected, wildlife-rich places across England’s towns, cities and countryside, benefiting people and wildlife.

The urgency to deliver the NRN to meet the ambitions of the 25 YEP is unprecedented, stimulated by the declaration of the Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies, and it is vital that all sectors work together with a shared mission and common endeavour for England to meet global targets to become Nature Positive by 2030.

Fundamentally, business is embedded and dependent on nature…and the continued decline in nature would put business at increasing risk, as detailed in the Dasgupta Review.

My role as Business and Nature Recovery Lead is to coordinate engagement with the business sector, to raise awareness and encourage investment in nature recovery (such as through financial aid, provision of land or volunteering time and expertise), and equally important in developing an attractive return offer to business.

Jon Moore Business and Nature Recovery Lead at IEMA (on secondment from Sweco UK)

If you would like to find out more about the Nature Recovery Network and how your business can support nature recovery, please contact Jon Moore.

Jon’s secondment to IEMA as Business & Nature Recovery Lead, working closely with Natural England to promote the Nature Recovery Network (NRN) to businesses across England, is focused on helping to restore and enhance England’s wildlife-rich places. Jon will be helping Sweco and IEMA lead the conversation on business and biodiversity over the coming months – keep an eye out for his guides, blogs and sustainability commentary articles on our Insights hub.