Committee issues call to action on nature

6th May 2014

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  • Natural resources ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Construction ,
  • Mitigation


Matthew Coe

The UK must act now to manage natural capital better and ensure greater demand for food, housing and transport does not adversely impact the environment, concludes the natural capital committee (NCC) in its second report

The NCC, which was set up by the government to identify natural assets at risk of being used unsustainably, warns: “If our natural capital is to continue to support development, it is essential that it is properly taken into account in all decision-making and is invested in appropriately, such as through the government’s national infrastructure plan.”

According to the report, most of England’s natural assets will need sustained action to restore and improve them. It warns that the quality of upland areas, the source of much of the country’s drinking water, is declining and says that population growth in urban areas is likely to lead to a deterioration of freshwaters and soils, and adversely affect the natural purification process.

Despite some recent improvement, poor air quality remains a priority for action, says the NCC, which also identifies wild fisheries as an important resource that is not currently being managed with long-term sustainability in mind.

It recommends improving the condition of mountains, moors and heaths to increase carbon storage potential in England. Meanwhile, better land management, through tree planting and reinstating wetland, for example, would help reduce soil erosion and support natural processes to reduce flood risk.

“The floods at the start of the year have reinforced the need for the government to take a holistic view of the causes of and solutions to flooding, which means looking seriously at what role natural capital can play in mitigating future events,” advises the NCC.

The committee has uncovered crucial evidence gaps relating to the condition of natural assets, such as soils, the atmosphere, wild species and oceans, and wants the government to develop and maintain a risk register for natural capital.

“Information is generally lacking about England’s natural assets and what is happening to them. It is imperative that these information gaps are addressed as a matter of urgency,” its states.

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