A committee founded with a three-year remit to advise the government on the value of natural assets – such as forests, rivers and clean air – must be made permanent, MPs have said.
The natural capital committee (NCC) was set up in 2012, to provide ministers with expert knowledge of the importance of nature to our economy and health.
The committee has so far published two reports, in which it argued that better management of Britain’s natural assets would bring great benefits, and highlighted that some assets are being used unsustainably.
For example, its most recent report, published in March, found that better management of marine fisheries could boost the economy by £1.4 billion per year, while health impacts related to polluted air costs between £9-20 billion per year.
To tackle such issues, the report called for a 25-year plan that takes a more “joined-up approach” to environment policy.
However, in a new report, MPs on the environmental audit committee (EAC) say the government’s responses to the NCC’s recommendations have been inadequate. They argue the committee must be given a permanent remit to implement its long-term proposals.
“Improving the quality of life in the UK for us and for future generations will depend on how well we measure social well-being and the free environmental services we all rely on to live – like pollination, fresh water and clean air”, said the chair of the EAC Joan Walley MP.
“It is important that the momentum behind the natural capital committee’s work is maintained.
“With its current remit finishing at the time of the general election, there is a risk that the required longer-term changes it identifies will be overlooked.”
Karen Ellis, chief economics adviser at the environmental charity WWF-UK, said the EAC’s conclusions were “absolutely right”.
She added, “Failure to value our natural resources, and make them central to government decision-making, is manifestly bad for the environment – but it’s bad economics and bad politics, too.”
Photo: Robert Pittman via Flickr