An outcomes-based approach to incentivise farmers to go low carbon and high biodiversity is in talks at Natural England.
Chairman Tony Juniper told delegates at a climate change event co-hosted by the NFU and Sustainable Food Trust in Gloucestershire last week (July 5) that the department was working to influence the discussion on public money for public goods and how best to move away from general payments.
He said that a lot of the support offered to farmers in relation to the environmental side of things was ‘a very formulaic approach based upon practice’ that was ‘quite bureaucratic, very specific and does not have a lot of flexibility’.
“Can we move beyond that to be focusing much more on outcomes rather than specific things that you might apply to lots of different farms?” he said.
“There are big questions about what public goods are we trying to incentivise, and I mentioned two big ones, biodiversity and carbon, but how best do we refine those and measure them so that people can be given a clear idea of what outcomes we are looking for.
“And then there are quite a lot of issues in the design side about how we blend in private sector finance into this space so that government money is being used in order to stimulate more investment from other actors.”
A new policy tool was emerging, he said, which included ‘really big policy ideas’ including net zero and the 25-Year Environment Plan.
It would not be a case of trading one against the other, but rather finding ways to pursue both at the same time.
Mr Juniper said the idea of how to move into this new space using the toolkit and the idea of public money for public goods was ‘one of the really big items on our agenda’.
“How could this go on the ground and in practice?” he said. “We are helping with various tests and trials, and hopefully we will be moving quite soon towards some pilot schemes that begin to shed some experience as to how we might best do this.
“Hopefully over the coming months we will start to see some real flesh getting onto the bones.”