An new online resource has been launched today (22 January) by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with an aim of helping to ensure “better environmental decision-making by valuing our ‘natural capital’”.
The evidence and guidance is intended to help policy makers, businesses, landowners and public sector organisations make better planning decisions in order to protect and to boost natural capital.
Natural capital is the sum of our ecosystems, providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards.
This comes at a critical time where the protection of our environment is ever-more important in combatting climate change and reversing habitat loss
Government says, the “natural capital approach” will make it easier for public and private organisations to better assess and value the environment.
This will help deliver benefits including long-term flood risk reduction, boosts to wildlife, improvements to water and air quality, and opportunities for biodiversity net gain, it says.
The value of the environment and natural capital is routinely understated. For example, the Office for National Statistics estimate that England’s woods and forests deliver a value of services estimated at £2.3 billion annually. Of this figure, only a small proportion – 10% – is in timber values.
The rest of the value derives from other more ‘hidden’ benefits to society, such as human recreation and air pollution removal, which improve health, and carbon sequestration which can help combat climate change.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Today’s publication helps to put the natural environment at the heart of decision-making. It meets a commitment from our 25 Year Environment Plan to better incorporate the value of nature – known as natural capital – and the benefits the environment provides to us all.
“This comes at a critical time where the protection of our environment is ever-more important in combatting climate change and reversing habitat loss.”