A new independent group to advise Defra on accelerating investment into sustainable UK agriculture and fisheries launches today. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is represented on the group by Science Director Dr Doug Wilson.

The Land, Nature and Adapted Systems Advisory Group (LNAS Advisory Group) will advise Defra on definitions of economic activities that can be defined as environmentally sustainable. The independent LNAS Advisory Group Secretariat is hosted by the Green Finance Institute and funded and backed by Defra, as set out in the Green Finance Strategy.

The group’s work will expand that of the Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) - currently advising government on the design and implementation of a UK Green Taxonomy - and will help accelerate investment into sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and into UK resilience to deliver climate and nature goals. 

With three-quarters of UK FTSE All-Share firms classed as ‘highly dependent’ on natural capital, catalysing private investment into nature to strengthen investment opportunities and scale nature markets is critical to the future health and resilience of the UK economy.

Given the UK’s globally focused financial sector, which has some of the deepest pools of internationally oriented capital, with 7.2% of the global total of foreign listed companies listed in London, strengthening the UK’s global investment credentials by setting clear definitions of environmentally sustainable economic activities is critical to securing UK leadership in green finance. 

Lord Benyon, Environment and Green Finance Minister, said: “To restore landscapes and ensure thriving plants and wildlife, we need to mobilise much-needed investment into the natural environment and prioritise clean and resilient growth.” 

In October 2022, GTAG recommended adopting the majority of the EU Taxonomy Technical Screening Criteria (TSC), but revising the TSC where they were deemed unsuitable for the UK through the creation of the new LNAS Advisory Group that would advise Defra on the definitions of sustainable economic activities relating to land use and nature-based investments. 

The Advisory Group, chaired by Dr Rob Bradburne, Chief Scientist at The Environment Agency, includes UKCEH Science Director Dr Doug Wilson alongside other stakeholders from across finance, farming and environment sectors. 

The UK’s ambitions for the climate and the environment include:

  • Stimulating at least £500m of private investment per year by 2027 to support nature recovery – rising to at least £1bn per year by 2030.
  • Land, Nature and Adapted Systems Advisory Group.
  • Legally binding targets to improve the environment in England, for example halt the decline in species populations by 2030, and then increase populations by at least 10% greater than 2030, by 2042.
  • Legally binding carbon reduction targets of 78% reduction against 1990 levels by 2035 and net zero by 2050.

In the first phase of its workplan the LNAS Advisory Group will focus on developing criteria for sustainable agriculture and fisheries. The group will take a novel and holistic approach by considering climate mitigation and adaption needs, but also taking into account wider considerations in relation to:

  • Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
  • Transition to a circular economy
  • Pollution prevention and control
  • Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems

In the second phase of the work, the group’s focus will pivot to developing out the climate adaption elements of the taxonomy by considering the role of infrastructure, and also nature-based solutions in delivering adapted and resilient systems in the UK. 

Agriculture in the UK contributes 0.5% GDP to the economy (£11.2 billion GVA), covers 71% of UK land and employs nearly half a million people. It is also responsible for 11% of UK GHG emissions and is a significant contributor to the depletion of nature and biodiversity through land use change and fertiliser use. 

Fisheries in the UK (including wild capture fishing, aquaculture and seafood processing) contribute 0.1 % GDP to the economy (£1.75 billion GVA) and play an important role in many vulnerable coastal towns and communities. But, only 35% of UK commercial stocks are estimated to be in a healthy state and thousands of sensitive marine mammals are captured as bycatch in UK waters every year.