A new natural capital tool has been launched by the government to help farmers and land managers protect the environment.
The Enabling a Natural Capital Approach (ECNA) tool will help ensure better environmental decision-making by valuing the UK's ‘natural capital’, Defra said.
It will give businesses and their advisers the ability to assess how their actions and investment decisions can be aligned with protecting the natural environment.
‘Natural capital’ is the sum of the country's ecosystems, providing people with food, clean air and water, recreation and protection from hazards.
The natural capital approach intends to make it easier for public and private organisations to better assess and value the environment.
The government says 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.
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.
Defra's environment minister Rebecca Pow said the new tool 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,” she said.
The project was developed in collaboration with experts from across Defra and informed by the work of bodies such as the Valuing Nature Network.