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UK Implements Biodiversity Net Gain Regulation: What Developers Need to Know

UK Implements Biodiversity Net Gain Regulation: What Developers Need to Know

The regulation is enforced as of 12 February with a biodiversity metric, which values different ecosystems differently. Only accepted providers can provide off-site biodiversity credits.

Following a delay to the upcoming legislation, the UK government has now confirmed that all large development projects will have to ensure that they generate an increase of at least a 10% in biodiversity, either on-site or by off-setting.

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What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

The Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) initiative, recently introduced by the UK Government, is directed at developers with the objective of protecting and improving natural environments in the face of ongoing development activities. This regulation mandates that developers not only mitigate the impacts of their projects on local ecosystems but also enhance them, ensuring a tangible, positive increase in biodiversity from pre-development levels. This strategy is designed to counterbalance the environmental footprint of development, thereby promoting stronger, more varied ecosystems.

 

What does the mandate mean for developers in England?

Starting February 12, in England, developers will be required by law to ensure a 10% increase in biodiversity for all new residential, industrial, or commercial construction projects. This means the quality of habitats post-development must be better than their pre-development state. The obligation to adhere to the Biodiversity Net Gain standards extends to smaller-scale projects from April 2, 2024, while significant infrastructure projects are expected to follow suit by October, 2025.

3 options for developers to adhere to the 10% Biodiversity Net Gain goal

To fulfil the 10% Biodiversity Net Gain requirement, developers in the UK have three primary methods, structured within a defined hierarchy:

Enhancing and restoring biodiversity on-site: The first and most preferred option involves improving biodiversity directly within the development site. This might include activities like planting native species, creating new habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems, and improving existing natural areas to enhance their ecological value.

Combining on-site and off-site solutions: If achieving the full BNG on the development site itself is not feasible, developers can opt for a blended approach. This means implementing some biodiversity improvements on-site, and complementing them with off-site measures. Off-site solutions can involve supporting or creating new habitats in different locations, which are ecologically linked or beneficial to the region’s overall biodiversity.

Purchasing statutory biodiversity credits: As a last resort, when on-site and combined on-site/off-site strategies are not viable, developers can fulfil their BNG obligations by purchasing biodiversity credits from the government. These credits fund government-led or approved conservation and habitat creation projects elsewhere, thus contributing to national biodiversity goals.

In the BNG framework, biodiversity is quantitatively assessed using standardised biodiversity units. These units are a measure of ecological value, based on various factors like the size of the habitat, its ecological quality, and its location relative to other important ecological sites. The calculation of these units involves assessing the current biodiversity value of a site and estimating the potential gains from proposed enhancement measures. This systematic approach ensures that developments contribute positively to the environment, balancing progress with ecological preservation.
 

Mike Burke, Programme Director – Sustainable Development at Natural England noted:

This is a major step towards nature recovery and will play a part in enhancing the places where people live and work. We look forward to collaborating with all our partners in making this happen.”

France has also enacted a net zero artificialization of soils into law enforcement, although no date has been set. With a similar intent, but simpler measures, France seeks to stop converting arable/forestry land to impregnable cities paved over with asphalt and concrete. The new regulation, Zero Artificialisation Nette (ZAN) does not set clear measures of enforcement, but sets a national intent to stop artificialisation. 
 
Read more about Biodiversity Net Gain, what it means for developers, and how one Click LCA is supporting the industry in this article.
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