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Beyond LED lighting: Greater Manchester’s natural capital

Greater Manchester is developing an UK-first plan to attract investment in the city region’s natural environment, which provides nearly £900 million in economic and social benefits each year.

Greater Manchester is developing an UK-first plan to attract investment in the city region’s natural environment, which provides nearly £900 million in economic and social benefits each year.

Unveiled at a special event in Manchester in February, the Natural Capital Investment Plan sets out a range of financial investment models that could lead to significant investment in Greater Manchester’s natural environment.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority said the plan would take the city region “beyond simply the installation of engineered green technologies such as LED lighting, to making sure we have the vital environmental infrastructure - greenspaces, peatlands, woodland, clean rivers - that deliver benefits such as flood risk reduction, carbon sequestration, air quality improvement and health benefits.”

A number of cities around the globe are formulating similar ways of financing environmental improvements, including Washington DC, which in 2016 launched a $25 million ‘Environmental Impact Bond’ for investors.

‘Sound financial thinking’

Cllr Alex Ganotis, Greater Manchester’s green city region lead, said: “This incredible plan is the first of its kind for a city region in the UK, and is another step on Greater Manchester’s road to becoming one of the greenest places in Europe.

“Through sound financial thinking we can determine the monetary as well as the social benefits our natural environment provides. And if we do that, we can encourage investment into those assets, securing their future for the long term.

“You can say a tree is priceless, but it is not value-less. A rain garden makes a building attractive, but it also absorbs waste water which saves on people’s utility bills – there’s a clear financial benefit to that investment.

Valuing the environment

“Our natural environment is about so much more than aesthetics and our city balance sheets and strategies need to recognise that. It improves our physical and mental health, provides attractive spaces to live and work (which encourages investment), helps protect against the risks of climate change and flooding, encourages sustainable travel, and helps to improve our air quality.”

A natural capital account developed for Greater Manchester shows that the natural environment provides nearly £900 million worth of services to the city region each year.