COP 26: How businesses can support the regeneration of nature


by Rebecca English, Ecologist, Arup

Following the insightful close to COP26, it is encouraging to see the increased focus on protecting and restoring nature as a vital way to achieve targets set in the Paris Agreement.

92% of all Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) include measures to tackle nature loss, with 96 NDCs including Nature-based Solutions in the context of mitigation measures, and 91 in the context of adaptation. In addition to this, commitment has been made to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, covering about 85% of the world’s forests.

It is critical that further action is taken around tackling the biodiversity crisis, to tackle our climate crisis.

But how can you as a local business really make a difference?

To achieve progress in this area, businesses need to understand the importance of tackling both biodiversity loss and climate change through achieving Net Zero and Environmental Net Gain (ENG).

Environmental literacy needs to be improved across all organisations. Leaders and key stakeholders need to understand:

  • Why they must protect, preserve and restore nature;
  • How they can minimise our impacts; and
  • How they can achieve a net positive impact on nature.

Having several key tools and processes in place throughout each stage of a project will help all businesses start to take a step towards achieving Environmental Net Gain.

  1. Implement guidance at the initial project stage

This allows key decision makers to understand the potential impact of a delivery options on nature and ensures, where possible, options taken forward to design stage protect our valuable and irreplaceable habitats and preserve nature.

  1. Influence the design

Working with engineers, contractors, and other key stakeholders throughout the design phase will help to minimise the impact on nature through design. Influencing the design at this stage will not only reduce the impact on nature but also have wider benefits around reducing carbon footprints and wider resource use.

How is this achieved in practice?

On a recent project, Arup tackled these interrelated global crises by looking beyond Biodiversity Net Gain (achieving an increase in biodiversity after development, as now required under the Environment Act) to assess Environmental Net Gain (achieving an increase in biodiversity, natural capital and wider environmental benefits). In the absence of a universally accepted approach, Arup both found and established methods and tools appropriate at both a project and a larger scale. Key to this was identifying solutions that encompass and measure a range of wider benefits and look at how our impacts on biodiversity have wider implications for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and human wellbeing.

To support this endeavour, Arup have also helped to develop a GIS based tool to enable the use of satellite imagery and AI to classify habitats at a large scale. This helps identify areas to protect nature, opportunities for habitat creation and enhancement, and areas where development will have minimal impact on nature.   

What else can be done?

There is always more that you can do to protect and restore nature.

By looking at the bigger picture and recognising the intrinsic value of nature, we can begin to harness its value to improve planetary health, and both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The following resources may be useful in understanding how you can consider impacts on the natural environment within the decision-making process, and everyday business activities: