DEFRA selects PwC as manager of Biodiverse Landscape Fund

17 May 2022 3 min. read

DEFRA has selected PwC as the fund manager for its £100 million 'Biodiverse Landscape Fund’. The fund launches as the UK Government faces criticism for a perceived lack of protections afforded to the natural world.

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that securing biodiversity is not just a ‘nice to have’ in terms of battling climate change. The planet’s finely tuned ecosystems help preserve the delicate balance that has enabled humanity to thrive in the recent historical epoch – and without them, the environment’s deterioration is likely accelerate.

Across the world, this has seen the appetite for not only conserving surviving habitats grow, but also a growing determination to ‘rewild’ areas which have been disturbed and disrupted by human intervention. Illustrating this, Rewilding Britain (an organisation founded in 2015 that aims to promote the rewilding of the UK) reported interest in rewilding boom in recent years, receiving record levels of requests for guidance from over 50 landowners in 2020 alone. A growing school of thought holds the UK Government to be out of step with this trend, though.

DEFRA selects PwC as manager of Biodiverse Landscape Fund

By the government’s own admission, a self-assessment found that it had failed on two-thirds of its biodiversity targets – 14 out of 20 – agreed at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, however, the reality is much more bleak. Analysis released in 2021 suggested that on six of those targets, the UK has actually gone backwards. Significant failures include insufficient funding for nature conservation, too little land being managed for nature, and declining wildlife populations.

While the government’s report did not suggest it had regressed on these fronts, and it released a statement responding to the RSPB contending that it had “made significant progress with the biodiversity targets set out at Aichi in 2010”, it has been preparing to roll out new services for a while. The latest of these is the Biodiverse Landscape Fund.

The £100 million fund, first announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the UN General Assembly 2019, will run from 2022 to 2029. It aims to develop economic opportunities through investment in nature; slow, halt or reverse biodiversity loss in globally significant regions for biodiversity; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard natural carbon sinks.

To do this, the fund will support work in six of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. These include the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area; Mesoamerica; Western Congo Basin; Andes Amazon; Lower Mekong; and Madagascar. The landscapes were selected on the basis of the global importance of their biodiversity, their potential to act as carbon sinks, and the economic and livelihood needs of their resident populations.

To oversee the allocations of funding to these areas, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued a tender for a contract to manage the fund. After this process, Big Four firm PwC was eventually drafted in to oversee the project – which is due to last nine financial years, and may be extended for a period of up to 36 months.

Little is known of what exactly PwC’s role will entail, beyond being required to administer delivery partner competitions, manage and monitor grants, co-ordinate fund-wide learning, and provide associated services – relatively standard responsibilities for a role of this kind. But one other public aspect of the appointment is much more likely to turn heads. According to research firm Tussell, while the fund itself will allocate some £100 million to the environmentally essential projects, PwC could pick up as much as £126 million for its efforts.