Grants worth up to £100,000 are now on offer for projects that help tackle climate change, improve water quality or create and restore habitats.
The money comes from a £10m Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) and will be administered by the Environment Agency.
The application window opened on 10 February and closes at 5pm on Friday 26 March 2021.
Projects that could be eligible for the fund include:
- Woodland creation
- Peatland restoration
- Wildlife habitat establishment
- Coastal wetland generation
- River catchment restoration.
Defra said the aim was to help businesses and other organisations develop nature projects in England that could then go on to attract private investment.
For example, new woodland captures carbon and then the carbon units (every tonne of carbon sequestered) can be sold to businesses that want to offset emissions.
Similarly, plans to create wetland may reduce flooding risks and attract investment from water companies.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the scheme would encourage critical private sector investment in the natural environment.
“Investors are rightly recognising environmental factors as key drivers of value,” she said.
“As we look to build back greener from the pandemic, I would encourage any interested businesses or other organisations to bid for a portion of this fund.”
Savills head of rural research Emily Norton also urged farmers to apply for the grant.
Ms Norton explained that the approach to funding represented a shift towards encouraging follow-on investment which could be more common in the future.
“It’s easy to see how environmental NGOs could apply for this type of grant and perhaps less so for individual farm businesses,” she said.
“However, it is vital that farmers are early adopters – maybe as a joint bid with a cluster of other farms – because this system may be the way forward for grant funding.
“If farmers fail to engage at this stage, they may find they are excluded from further offers of this type.”
How to apply
Applications for grants, between £10,000 and £100,000, should be made through the government website.
The deadline is 5pm on Friday 26 March.