The independent natural capital committee has said that too often the environment is taken for granted, and called for a 25-year-long natural capital plan so that Britain can enjoy the “economic and wellbeing benefits”.
Its latest State of Natural Capital report says the environment should be taken into account in long-term decision-making. It highlights natural capital as an important player in the UK’s economy and society.
Chair of the committee, the economist Dieter Helm, wrote in the report, “Integrating the environment into the economy is hampered by the almost complete absence of proper accounting for natural assets. What is not measured is usually ignored.
“The committee is leading the way in developing the metrics and risk registers, identifying the necessary capital maintenance, and ensuring that project and investment appraisals in both the public and private sectors properly take natural capital into account.”
The report calls for the government to invest sustainably in natural capital, “compensating for losses where appropriate, to ensure future pressures do not adversely impact on it”.
However, environmental campaigners have warned that pricing the environment is not enough, as this might mean that it can be sold and bought just like other goods.
Friends of the Earth nature campaigner Sandra Bell said, “This is a really important report that mustn’t be ignored. But valuing our natural world means more than simply pricing it up – it’s fundamental to our future wellbeing, and far more must be done to protect it.”
Meanwhile, WWF-UK economics adviser Toby Roxburgh said, “The recent flooding highlighted the urgent need to restore our natural capital – in this case, managing land and rivers better to reduce flood risk.
“But our fisheries, woodlands and urban green spaces – all are cases where, with the right policy and investment, we can generate economic opportunities and wider benefits for society by restoring nature.”