Achieving more for nature

Your land

Whether you have a small garden, 10,000 hectares of farmland or you are interested in making the development in your town better for nature there is something in this section for you.

Natural capital

The Natural Capital Committee (an advisory body to government) defines natural capital as "…those elements of the natural environment which provide valuable goods and services to people, such as the stock of forests, water, land, minerals and oceans". As an approach it seeks to add to the perceived value of our natural environment by attributing a monetary value to these goods and services and then using these to put a partial value on the natural capital from which they are derived.

Discussions on natural capital are becoming increasingly common within the environment sector and Government is leading the way by using the approach in the development of 'A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment'. As such it is becoming clear that natural capital is something that environmental organisations need to be aware of and understand.

While seemingly complicated, natural capital is the latest in a line of approaches which seek to promote conservation through awareness of the natural environment's value to society. Sustainable development emerged in the late 1980s it highlighted the importance of protecting the natural environment to ensure that society's needs and the needs of future generations would be met. This was followed by the ecosystem services approach which sought to define and catalogue the goods and services which were derived from nature and attribute a monetary value to them. Natural capital takes this a step further, seeking to use the combined values of these goods and services to calculate a monetary value (not price) for the environment from which they are derived.

Natural capital or intrinsic value?

Needless to say natural capital can be a divisive topic, with fears that a focus on money will detract from the importance of nature's intrinsic value.

The Natural Capital Committee sum this up well in its third State of Natural Capital report, by stating: "Valuation of natural capital is unavoidable because human needs and wants exceed the resources available to satisfy them all. Therefore, every time society decides to do one thing, it is making a decision not to do another. Values on each option are implicitly being placed and trade-offs being made. It is better to be explicit about the trade-offs and valuations inherent in decision making than to keep them implicit and invisible."

While this is a risk it is clear that natural capital could be a useful tool for engaging with those that do not recognise the intrinsic value of nature or those that work in sectors which are constrained by the financial 'bottom line'. Despite concerns, natural capital is gathering momentum and not engaging with it could leave organisations ill-equipped to deal with a changing sector.

What is the GLNP doing?

The GLNP have developed eight case studies, one for each of its workstreams, to help put the work that it does in a natural capital context. Alongside these is a brief report to help explain the process used as well as give some insight into how economic values are derived for the services that the environment provides.

These case studies and the accompanying report are available to download from the menu on the left.