Over the last century, the state of nature has declined dramatically as the pressure of human demands has increasingly degraded and fragmented habitats. In response, the government has made international and domestic commitments to improve biodiversity.

In 2018, the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan introduced “thriving plants and wildlife” as one of its 10 goals. In 2023, the Environmental Improvement Plan highlighted thriving plants and wildlife as its ‘apex’ goal, with statutory biodiversity net gain as one way it expects to “make further progress” towards this goal. The government intends biodiversity net gain to contribute to nature recovery when land is developed, so that wildlife habitats are ultimately in a measurably better state.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for implementing statutory biodiversity net gain. We are conducting this study at the request of the Environmental Audit Committee to contribute to its inquiry into the role of natural capital in the green economy, and it also complements and builds on our reports on energy and environment issues.


Our report will examine what government wants to achieve and how it plans to do so, its progress to date, and how it is managing associated risks and challenges. The report will consider:

  • what government wants to achieve through introducing statutory biodiversity net gain, and how it will do so
  • government’s progress towards implementing statutory biodiversity net gain to date
  • government’s arrangements to manage risks and challenges to statutory biodiversity net gain

NAO Team

Director: Keith Davis
Senior Audit Manager: Mark Bisset