Defra to value nature

17th September 2012


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • UK government

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IEMA

Plans for an accounting process to properly value natural capital are the subject of a consultation by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in conjunction with Defra

The environment department pledged last year in its natural environment white paper to develop a system of accounts to track changes in the stock of natural capital and the value of the services they provide.

The consultation says the proposed framework would better show links between stocks of natural capital, flows of ecosystem services and economic activity, and would bring discipline to the organisation of environmental and related data.

“The accounts are aimed at providing the underlying data needed to understand changes in the stock of natural assets,” says the consultation document, and claims that ecosystems accounting “will be a key tool for managing natural capital better”.

The national ecosystem assessment (NEA), which was also published in 2011, will provide the basis for an accounting system under the ONS/Defra proposals. The NEA was the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity.

In England, the accounts will be used by the natural capital committee, which provides the government with independent advice on the state of natural capital.

The ONS has established an expert group on natural capital and ecosystems services, which brings together more than 50 individuals, to consider the outcome of the consultation, although it acknowledges that developing ecosystems-based accounts will be an incremental process and unlikely to be completed until 2020.

“We cannot do everything immediately. We will need to learn from the experience of others in this field, what is practically possible and how accounts might be used in practice,” says the consultation.

Following the consultation, which closes on 30 September, the government plans to publish a roadmap by the end of the year and begin a draft accounting methodology pilot project in autumn 2013.

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