Natural Capital – What is it and why is it important now?
Natural Capital is, quite simply, the environment. It is, as Michael Gove puts it, the value of our land, soil, ecosystems, species and minerals, our freshwater, air and seas. It is basically the world’s stocks of natural assets, including geology, soil, air, water and all living things. They are viewed as being valuable as they either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country. Either by providing food, clean air, water, wood or recreation.
Natural Capital is becoming an ever-increasingly used term, as society becomes ever more environmentally aware. The term also takes centre stage in the Government’s 25-year environment plan.
There is even a government committee (Natural Capital Committee), specifically present to advise the government on matters affecting our land, forests, rivers, minerals and oceans values, and the third world forum on natural capital was held in Edinburgh at the end of 2017.
Why is it important?
You can expect to hear a lot more about Natural Capital in the coming years, and if the government’s 25-year environment plan is anything to go by, you can even expect to see new Agri-Environment Schemes focusing on rewarding those that increase the value of their farms Natural Capital – a more results driven scheme, or possibly even any direct payment being specifically linked to Natural Capital.
An example of agricultures’ effect on natural capital, is the depletion of water quality due to soil erosion, fertiliser leeching or slug pellets finding their way into our watercourses. As a result, the UK stocks of clean water are depleted, there are increased public costs and overall Natural Capital is reduced.
All we would say for now is that land managers could start to increase their understanding of Natural Capital in order to enable themselves to maximise any opportunities as they present.