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Call: Natural capital accounting: Measuring the biodiversity footprint of products and organizations

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Programme
Acronym HE-CL6-BIODIV
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 1: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services"

The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a cornerstone of the European Green Deal that will put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, for the benefit of people, the climate and the planet. It will also prepare the EU to take a leading role in the upcoming international negotiations on a new global framework to halt biodiversity loss. With the Green Deal’s ‘do no significant harm’ vision, all EU policies will become more biodiversity-friendly, focusing more on the sustainable use of ecosystems, supporting the recovery in a post-pandemic world[[COM/2020/380 EU biodiversity strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives]]. This policy vision is fully supported in the strategic plan of Horizon Europe for 2021-2024 in its first key strategic orientation ‘Protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity and managing sustainably natural resources on land and at sea, and achieving climate neutrality and adaptation’. Consequently, Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ intends to achieve the following expected impact from Cluster 6 ‘Biodiversity is back on a path to recovery, and ecosystems and their services are preserved and sustainably restored on land, inland water and at sea through improved knowledge and innovation’. All actions funded under this destination must therefore help to deliver this main impact.

Research and innovation is key to delivering results that will have an important impact on biodiversity, food, health, water and climate, which are all interconnected, and to achieving the goal of healthy and resilient ecosystems by 2030. It will also enable transformational change engaging European society and economy and their global impacts, making decisions more biodiversity-friendly. R&I will support policy targets, develop nature-based solutions[[Nature-based solutions are “inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions. Hence, nature-based solutions must benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.”]] and holistic approaches to address the main causes of biodiversity loss, particularly in connection to production systems, bringing all sectors together to be integrated in ecosystem-based management. Investments in R&I will help to protect and restore the integrity of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems, currently under multiple pressures, and protect and restore their capacity to deliver a wide range of essential services. Under Horizon Europe, a long-term strategic research agenda for biodiversity will also be developed.

The sixth mass extinction is taking place: one million species are at risk of extinction, and the degradation of ecosystems severely affects the fabric of life that enables the survival of humankind[[IPBES global assessment (2019). Summary for policy-makers.]]. None of the globally agreed targets of the 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity has been fully achieved[[United Nation’s 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook (2020).]], with the biodiversity crisis even deepening. Our knowledge on biodiversity status, pressures, impacts and responses needs to be improved, requiring even basic taxonomic work in certain ecosystems. Understanding biodiversity decline and addressing its main drivers through data-driven science, integrated multidisciplinary knowledge, new tools, models and scenarios, will support Europe’s policy needs and boost global biodiversity science. Solutions for preventing and addressing the individual and cumulative effect of direct drivers of biodiversity loss (land use change, overexploitation, climate change, invasive species, pollution) need to be further developed and made available to policy makers and practitioners, such as through the new EC Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity[[https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/biodiversity_en]]. For more impact on society and economic sectors, citizen science and crowdsourcing also require big data analysis, artificial intelligence, social sciences, communications and policy tools.

Valuing and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services is necessary to develop tools to guide decisions, inform and implement policies on the environment, water, health, climate, disaster risk reduction, agriculture, forests and other land use types, protected areas management, the sustainable bioeconomy, the blue economy, maritime and cross-sectoral spatial planning, and responsible business practices. The continued degradation of the ecosystems and their services affects biodiversity and climate change[[https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0738-8]], and increases the risk of severe ecological disasters and pandemics. The European Green Deal and its biodiversity strategy call for urgent action to restore damaged aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in order to increase biodiversity and deliver a wide range of ecosystem services.

The contribution of ecosystems to human wellbeing and the economy is not properly accounted for in market transactions, or in planning and investment decisions: the social and economic co-benefits of healthy ecosystems are often disregarded. Natural capital accounts need to be developed and mainstreamed. Investments in R&I will also lay the ground for scaling up and speeding up the implementation of technological, societal and nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS support vital ecosystem services, biodiversity and biomass provision, as well as access to drinking water, clean soil, improved livelihoods, healthy diets and food safety and security from sustainable food systems. NBS deployment will also create green jobs and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters. Citizens, authorities, businesses, social partners and the research community must be engaged at local, regional, national and European levels.

Managing biodiversity in primary production: Biodiversity is the basis for sustainable and resilient agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, as also recognised in the farm to fork and biodiversity strategies under the Green Deal. With diverse genetic resources, it is possible to use in primary production plants and animals that are adapted to different environments, ecosystems and meet diverse needs. Furthermore, the interplay between species below and above ground delivers important ecosystem services, such as pollination, soil fertility, pest and risk control. Despite these recognised benefits, current production systems tend to be specialised and rely on a limited number of crops, breeds and forest tree species whose genetic basis is narrow. Reversing this trend and increasing their resilience is critical and of global concern in particular in the current context of accelerated climate change and a growing population whose production and consumption footprint is increasing.

Enabling transformative change [[Transformative change has been defined by IPBES as “A fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values”. IPBES global assessment (2019). Summary for policy-makers.]] in biodiversity: Science (IPBES and IPCC) and Policy (the global post-2020 biodiversity framework and the EU biodiversity strategy) clearly underline that biodiversity loss can only be successfully addressed if transformative changes are initiated, accelerated, and up-scaled. There is however hardly any knowledge on potentials and challenges arising from transitions focused on biodiversity. System-level change of this kind starts with social innovation in the form of, for example, regulations, incentives, local and participatory processes, and through the introduction of new technologies, new production processes, or new consumer products, which change how socio-technical and socio-ecological systems operate and impact their environment. Such transformative change must decrease the impacts of indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, which are in turn, underpinned by societal values and behaviours. Indirect drivers of biodiversity loss are understood to mean here: production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends (including their footprints), trade, technological innovations, and local to global governance (including financing). Research and innovation can enable these transformative changes to happen and initiate processes, behaviour changes and actions which are transforming the way we impact biodiversity. Socio-economic and multidisciplinary research, including on the role of education, will develop knowledge and tools to understand the role of transformative change for biodiversity policy making, address the indirect drivers for biodiversity loss, and accelerate transformative changes in our society that are relevant to biodiversity.

Interconnecting biodiversity research and supporting policies refers to the establishment of the European Partnership ‘Rescuing biodiversity to safeguard life on Earth’ and to the support to other science-policy interfaces. The European partnership on biodiversity[[https://www.biodiversa.org/1759]] will connect national, local and European research, innovation and environmental programmes, combining resources in support of one goal, i.e. that by 2030 biodiversity in Europe is back on the path to recovery. It will co-develop multidisciplinary research and innovation programmes with stakeholders, set up a European network of coordinated observatories for biodiversity monitoring, and implement a broad range of activities to increase the relevance, impact and visibility of EU research and innovation in tackling the biodiversity crisis in line with the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030.

Science-policy interfaces on biodiversity and nature-based solutions have made good progress in recent years[[Good leverage effects have been achieved, notably through EKLIPSE, Oppla, the NBS platform, the EU4IPBES support action 2018-2021.]], and must be stepped up to achieve targeted impacts on biodiversity-relevant policies, that can in turn be used as structured policy input into the research cycle. These interfaces are also key to guiding biodiversity governance, and to implement the EU Green Deal and international conventions[[In particular, the UN Convention on Biodiversity, and the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030]]. In line with the Commission priority 'A stronger Europe in the world', the EU must take and demonstrate leadership in this field, notably by increasing its support to IPBES[[The Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services]] -to bring it up to the same level as the IPCC-, and to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Besides economic support, this also includes efforts to create synergies and cooperation between IPBES, regional Multilateral Environmental Agreements and other relevant research communities to ensure a full coverage of all relevant aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to underpin the full scope of the post 2020 global biodiversity framework.

All topics will directly contribute to the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13, 14, 15, 17.

Several missions will also help to achieve biodiversity-related impacts, notably in the areas of ‘Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation’, ‘Climate-neutral and smart cities’, ‘Ocean, seas and waters’ and ‘Soil health and food’.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway contributing to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and more specifically to one or more of the following impacts:

  • Biodiversity decline, its main direct drivers and their interrelations are better understood and addressed through the production, integration and use of open data, knowledge, education and training, innovative technologies, solutions and control measures, in collaboration with European and international initiatives.
  • Biodiversity and natural capital are integrated into public and business decision-making at all levels for the protection and restoration of ecosystems and their services; science base is provided for planning and expanding protected areas, and sustainably managing ecosystems.
  • Europe builds competitive sustainability and tackles climate change and natural disasters through the deployment of nature-based solutions, including ecosystem-based disaster risk-reduction approaches fully reaping their economic, social and environmental benefits for a green recovery across all European regions.
  • The interrelations between biodiversity, health, food, soil, water, air and climate are better known and communicated to citizens and policy-makers; in particular, risks associated with microbiomes and biodiversity-friendly prevention/mitigation measures, and opportunities for biodiversity recovery are identified.
  • Practices in agriculture and forestry support biodiversity and the provision of other ecosystems services based on a) a better understanding of functional biodiversity (above and below ground), b) effective knowledge and innovation systems and c) ready-to use solutions for land managers, adapted to specific conditions.
  • Access to a wider range of crops and breeds with a broadened genetic base is improved in line with global biodiversity commitments by gaining greater insight into the characteristics of genetic resources and by enhancing capacities for their preservation and use in breeding and in primary production (farming, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture). More (bio)diverse, resilient production systems will have positive knock-on effects on value chains, consumption, healthy diets and the wider, non-managed biodiversity.
  • Approaches for enabling transformative changes in society for biodiversity and ecosystems recovery are identified, tested and implemented in policy, governance, law business and society; all indirect drivers of biodiversity loss are addressed and ‘do not harm’ biodiversity policies become a mainstream part of all sectors.
  • Biodiversity research is interconnected across Europe, supporting and enhancing the ambition of national, EU and international environmental policies and conventions.

When considering the impact of the proposals, their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[As per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] has to be assessed. Also it has to be ensured that the research and innovation activities do not cause a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

The portfolio of actions under this destination will have impacts in the following areas: “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”; “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; and “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”.

Link Link to Programme
Call
Natural capital accounting: Measuring the biodiversity footprint of products and organizations
Description of call
"Natural capital accounting: Measuring the biodiversity footprint of products and organizations"

Expected Outcome:

In keeping with the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 the successful proposal is expected to contribute to measuring and integrating the value of nature into public and business decision making at all levels for the protection and restoration of ecosystems and their services.

Successful proposals will contribute to all the following expected outcomes:

  • Change the way in which EU and associated countries organizations and companies allocate capital or influence their activities to promote a sustainable management by mainstreaming the use of corporate natural capital accounting.
  • Integrate biodiversity and ecosystem considerations into business decision-making at different levels by measuring the biodiversity footprint of products and organisations through improving, developing and implementing standardised methods, criteria and standards that focus on essential features of biodiversity, ecosystems services, values, and sustainable use.
  • Improve corporate biodiversity disclosure through innovative approaches to foster principles of biodiversity data transparency to accurately report on biodiversity, ecosystems and services.
  • Demonstrate innovative solutions for valuing business impacts and dependencies in biodiversity and ecosystem and how this ends up in risks and opportunities for businesses private decision-making.
  • Explore solutions to decrease the biodiversity footprint of retailers in global value chains.

Scope:

The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 recognises that biodiversity considerations need to be better integrated into public and business decision-making at all levels. This should include measuring the environmental footprint of products and organisations on the environment, through life-cycle approaches complemented and eventually integrated by natural capital accounting. In this context, the Commission will support the establishment of an international natural capital accounting initiative.

Natural capital accounting has potential in providing a meaningful basis for business performance reporting by explicitly mapping out impacts and/or dependencies on natural resources and placing a monetary value on them. Specific examples include business accounting and reporting and the disclosure of non-financial reporting and accounting directives.

The successful proposal should develop, take up or demonstrate in real settings standardised natural capital accounting practices to support companies to measure, value and synthetise biodiversity and ecosystem risks assessment, notably in a way that is suitable for routine consideration in business and economy decision-making (including at executive level). It should also mainstream environmental footprints methods for instance through quantifying the environmental impacts of products, or supply and value chains, business models or organisations based the Commission Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) and the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

The successful proposal should contribute to the alignment of natural capital accounting between the public and private sectors and to explore how the links to link the collection and use of statistics and data for natural capital accounting. It should also address the obstacles businesses are facing, in particular on data collection and improving the access and utility of European environmental data sets at different levels (i.e.: national statistical offices, environmental agencies, corporate reports) allowing better corporate and national data integration for economic and financial decision making.

The successful proposal should work on methodologies for companies to set science-based biodiversity targets. It should also address the specific decision-making needs of corporates and financial service provider to allow a specific and meaningful linkage with the macro-economic perspective and the ecological concept of planetary boundaries at the scale of decision to be taken at corporate level enabling to assess and understand to corporate safe operating space.

The successful proposal should develop and test concrete natural capital accounting and reporting frameworks for business performance with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services reporting. This should include explicit mapping of the impacts and/or dependencies on natural resources and placing a monetary value on them. Specific examples should include business accounting, reporting, and the disclosure of non-financial reporting.

The successful proposal should explore to which extent the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting / Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EEA) framework in its current form is useful for natural capital assessment and natural capital accounting by businesses. This should be done both in terms of methodological approach and data collection o the opportunities for adapting the SEEA EEA framework to make it more tailored to the business needs or the extent to which national statistical offices can benefit from data collection by businesses.

The successful proposal should develop and test concrete natural capital accounting basis for business performance on biodiversity and ecosystem services reporting by explicitly mapping out impacts and/or dependencies on natural resources and placing a monetary value on them. Specific examples should include business accounting, reporting, and the disclosure of non-financial reporting.

The successful proposal should support the European contribution to a globally consistent approach to account for ecosystems and their value. The proposal should ensure that the EU continues to play a lead role in international environmental affairs through its support for effective measures, international standards and accounting relating to natural capital.

The successful proposal should improve the access and utility of European environmental data sets at different levels (i.e: national statistical offices, environmental agencies, corporate reports) allowing better corporate and national data integration for economic and financial decision making.

The successful proposal should support developing and testing natural capital and biodiversity based business models. These are expected to invest in nature for the benefit of biodiversity, ecosystems functioning and ecosystem services and address the challenge to turn the value of ecosystem into a revenue stream. The successful proposal should help making natural capital and biodiversity based business models bankable, thereby enabling private investments in nature conservation. In other words, ‘how to facilitate making money with nature by enhancing ecosystem conditions but not by exploiting it to the detriment of nature’.

The successful proposal should therefore take stock and establish links with the work undertaken by ongoing initiatives, European and national platforms on business and biodiversity, the Natural Capital Protocol, Value balancing alliance, the Knowledge Innovation Project KIP INCA and other Horizon 2020 related projects.

The successful proposal should support the practical implementation of corporate reporting obligations such as under the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive (2014/95/EU) or of the EU Taxonomy on Sustainable Finance.

Applicants should create synergies with relevant projects under this call (‘HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-07: Ecosystems and their services for an evidence-based policy and decision-making’; ‘HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-17: Policy mixes, governance (including financing) and decision-making tools for transformative action for biodiversity’ the EU Biodiversity Partnership and the Science Service. To this end, proposals should include specific tasks and appropriate resources for coordination measures, and, where possible, envisage joint activities and joint deliverables.

The proposal should set practical policy recommendations for the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 targets and commitments. Proposals should contribute to strategic dialogue with the EC Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity forum and ensure that all evidence, results, data and information will be accessible and interoperable with the KCBD.

In this topic, the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

This topic should include the effective contribution of social sciences and humanities disciplines.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Administration & Governance, Rural & Peripheral Development
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, International Organization, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Education and Training Centres
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 10.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 10.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities , where a rate of up to 100% applies)

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.

Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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