Why engaging with policy processes can help nature recovery

It’s not easy to work out the best way to give nature a real chance of recovery.  It’s complicated, with technical, ecological, legal, financial and social factors all making their contributions.

My work as the Knowledge Exchange specialist for the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery means that I have to try to find a way through this complexity. In particular, I’m interested in working with policy makers, as policy choices frame so much of what we can do for nature: be that new agricultural support systems or updates to planning rules.

In the UK context, a lot of nature-related policy is devolved to the four nations, which adds more complexity, but it’s also the chance to experiment with approaches better-suited to a particular physical or social context.

Research findings aren’t always an exact fit for what policymakers want at a particular time, so we have to be flexible.  Thus, I’ve been working to normalise a ‘responsive’ engagement strategy by getting involved with formal calls for evidence on nature-related policies.

My first foray into this area for the Centre came soon after I arrived in summer 2023, just as many researchers went on holiday! Fortunately, Sophus zu Ermgassen was around to prepare a great submission to the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the ‘Role of natural capital in the green economy’.

This year we’ve responded to two calls for evidence: from the Welsh Government and from NatureScot. This has been a fabulous opportunity to look at the different approaches of these devolved nations.

The Welsh Government was looking for responses to its White Paper on environmental principles, governance and biodiversity targets. I worked with one of our researchers, Jed Soleiman to draft a response, focussing on the questions where the Centre had most evidence to offer, and proposed strengthening the White Paper’s Nature-Positive target, you can read it here.

Soon after, Nat Duffus got in touch to say that NatureScot was consulting on a biodiversity metric for Scotland, based on the one being used for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) in England.  This was an excellent opportunity to input evidence from several people in the LCNR community who have been working on BNG, and Nat did a brilliant job of co-ordinating all those ideas into a single, readable response which you can read here.

This is just part of the knowledge exchange work for the Centre, and it’s been great to have this chance to engage with policy processes, as well as exploring how to apply research findings to questions that they weren’t necessarily designed to answer.

Do get in touch if you have any comments or would like to discuss any aspect of knowledge exchange – kay.jenkinson@ouce.ox.ac.uk.