January 2016

Defra Publishes Eunomia Payments for Ecosystem Services Report

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Defra has today published a report by Eunomia on a pilot Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) project undertaken from 2014 – 2015 in the West of England.

The project – one of five funded by Defra under its third round of PES Pilot projects – investigated the potential of changes in land management to tackle soil erosion, reduce flood risk, and deliver a range of other benefits, such as enhanced biodiversity, within the 17km2 Winford Brook catchment, to the south of Bristol.

Recommendations made in the report concern:

  • The way in which PES projects could best work alongside existing agri-environment schemes, and the potential to use Countryside Stewardship funding to top-up PES funds;
  • Facilitating access to government held landholding data for organisations wishing to implement PES schemes; and
  • Ways in which to secure the engagement of multiple beneficiaries in specific catchments.

Eunomia led a consortium of organisations including Bristol Water, Wessex Water, the Avon Wildlife Trust Consultancy (AWT) and TLT Solicitors. The project gained support from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the West of England Nature Partnership. The project partners worked closely with the Environment Agency, Natural England, Bath & North East Somerset Council, and North Somerset Council.

The report also considers:

  • The use of avoided dredging costs to determine the marginal financial benefits from reductions in erosion within a catchment;
  • The relative cost-effectiveness to water companies of managing soil nutrients on land within the catchment compared to investment in traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure;
  • The situations where an adviser-led approach to identifying interventions to fund may provide a more cost-effective outcome than can be achieved by using a ‘reverse auction’; and
  • The institutional and legal considerations in setting up a multi-beneficiary contributory PES fund.

Dr Chris Sherrington, Principal Consultant at Eunomia said:

PES schemes offer the promise of delivering widespread, and co-ordinated, environmental improvements in a way that delivers value for money. However, the research that has been undertaken, in close collaboration with project partners, has identified a number of barriers to the operation of PES schemes at present. If these can be overcome – and we recommend ways that they can be – the future for PES schemes looks considerably brighter.

Dr Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia said:

We’re now working with the project partners to move the scheme from concept to reality here in the West of England. Central to this is the role to be played by the Natural Capital Trust, which we hope might play a transformative role in improving the natural environment in our region.

The Project Report, and an accompanying annex relating to the walkover report undertaken as part of the study, can be found here.