The U.K. is now the first country to require biodiversity gains from housing developers. Under mandatory biodiversity net gain rules released Feb. 12, all new major housing developments must deliver at least a 10% benefit for nature.
The rules will apply to new applications for major developments beginning Feb. 12 and for smaller sites beginning in April. BNG rules for nationally significant infrastructure projects are expected in late 2025.
BNG is measured in biodiversity units calculated through a statutory metric tool that considers the size, quality, location and type of habitat. Where avoiding harm to nature is not possible, developers must create new habitats or enhance existing ones, or they can purchase off-site biodiversity units from landowners via a private market.
The U.K. has committed to halt species decline by 2030. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said in a news release that the new BNG requirement builds on efforts "to reverse the decline in nature and for everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water and will transform how development and nature can work together to benefit communities."
One early investor in BNG is Gresham House, an alternatives manager whose investments include Environment Bank, a national operator of Habitat Banks that help developers meet the new requirements.
Peter Bachmann, managing director of sustainable infrastructure at Gresham House, said in an emailed statement that the new order "will not only lead to positive outcomes for our natural world but will also create protected environments for local communities and more consistent and transparent requirements for developers."
A new market for nature is "worth hundreds of millions annually" and gives investors confidence, Bachmann said. "For investors, this new market for companies delivering biodiversity net gain units now represents a unique opportunity to drive strong financial returns through positive impact."