Environmental Payments Stacking – When is it Suitable

November 16, 2023 | Gigi Hennessy

Environmental Payments Stacking
Credit Kevin Palmer

There are currently a huge number of options for landowners relating to environmental payments stacking for delivering nature restoration. These include carbon credits, biodiversity net gain units, countryside stewardship payments, district licensing for newts and nutrient neutrality credits.

One of the most commonly asked questions from landowners is whether or not multiple environmental schemes can be applied to the same piece of land, or if they can be ‘stacked’.

The idea of stacking was covered in the most recent government response to the consultation on biodiversity net gain.

The guidance given is still slightly foggy. However, it does state that landowners will be able to sell both biodiversity units and nutrient credits from the same nature-based intervention, with the example they provide being the creation or enhancement of a wetland or woodland on the same parcel of land.

Things get slightly more complicated with the other environmental based schemes. If a landowner is receiving countryside stewardship payments, they can only claim biodiversity net gain units on enhancements that deliver benefits beyond what they are already doing for the CS payments.

For example, a landowner could be receiving payments for a cattle grazing supplement, whilst also receiving biodiversity net gain units for restoring a poor quality modified grassland to a good quality modified grassland, or potentially a moderate quality neutral grassland.

This is because the CS scheme is paying for cattle to be grazed on different habitats, rotating throughout the year. The BNG payments will cover the potential reduction in overall numbers of cattle being grazed and for the preparation of the ground and sowing of a species rich seed mix.

Guidance on using the same piece of land to sell BNG units and carbon credits is still limited. In theory, BNG units and nutrient credits can be sold from land used to sell carbon credits if the habitat is further enhanced and does not impact the carbon value.

So for example, land surrounding a newly planted woodland could be enhanced using BNG, but the woodland itself would likely need to be left.

More guidance on environmental payments stacking should be released later this year (2023). Essentially, if you are selling BNG units on land which is already in an environmental scheme, as long as what you are delivering is additional to the existing agreement, the units are valid.

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Gigi Hennessy

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