Putting a price on nature is impossible and potentially dangerous - the natural environment is too complex and vital. However, for too long nature has not had its rightful place in decision-making, especially in the eyes of those interested in economic growth. Not considering it as part of the business case often results in negative externalities, for people, the economy and wildlife.
With this in mind, Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership worked with the Environment Agency to use their Natural Capital Register and Account Tool to estimate a partial value of the economic and societal benefits that nature provides us here in Gloucestershire. The Environment Agency have developed this tool in response to DEFRA’s ENCA guidance – Enabling a Natural Capital Approach. It uses the most up to date scientific metrics and evidence to calculate the potential of different habitat types to provide services such as food, reduction of flood risk and carbon sequestration. We provided EA with habitat data for the county, available from our nature recovery network and natural capital mapping projects, they ran the tool, and the results are quite startling.
The values represent a partial estimate of ‘ecosystem services’, which are unevenly spread across the county. Possibly the most informative output from the NCRAT process is the following Sankey diagram, which shows the proportional contribution of different habitat types to this total, and their relative ecosystem service provision.
Rachel Lenane, Scientist at Environment Agency who led on this project with GNLP, is keen to point out the limitations of the tool. “There are many functions of nature that are not yet valued in this tool, things like pollination and flood regulation by wetlands. And there are many ecosystem services that cannot be effectively valued in any account, such as the value of biodiversity. . However, as a way of building stronger business cases for investment in nature and in helping get nature into decision-making, we have found it to be a really powerful tool.”
David Owen, Chief Exec of Gfirst LEP, said “Natural Capital is vital to the wellbeing of society in its broadest sense. We understand that the natural environment can underpin all economic and social activity, through the services it delivers, and this set of Natural Capital Accounts puts meat on the bones by attributing a partial value to the benefits the natural environment provides. Having this set of accounts demonstrates to the business community the value of investing in nature, something that the emergent Gloucestershire Nature and Climate Fund will leverage.”
For more information, or to request a copy of the full Natural Capital Register and Accounts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.