Undervaluing ecosystems could cost billions

2nd June 2011

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Biodiversity



Failing to value ecosystems services effectively could cost the UK economy £50 billion a year, according to the first National Ecosystems Assessment (NEA) published today (2 June 2011).

Environmentalists, scientists and economists collaborated over two years to write the 1,000 page report, which places a financial value on the economic, social and health benefits ecosystems services provide, from clean drinking water and flood control to natural medicine and aesthetic pleasure.

Water quality benefits of the UK’s inland wetlands, for example, are estimated to be worth up to £1.5 billion to the country each year, while the aggregates industry is calculated to be worth £4.8 billion.

The NEA has assessed how the natural environment has changed over the last 60 years and concludes that, while there have been some advances, 30% of the UK’s ecosystems services are in decline including biodiversity, soil quality and pollination.

The report’s authors argue that decision makers have consistently undervalued ecosystems services.

“Our wealth as a nation and our individual well being depend critically upon the environment…Yet we tend to take this largely for granted,” argues Lord Selborne, chair of the Living with Environmental Change partnership, publishers of the NEA.

“This under-estimation of the value of natural processes in economic terms means that we take inadequately informed decision on how to use these resources.

“The result is pollution, the loss of species and ecosystems, and damage to the processes we need, with real economic costs to either recover them or provide artificial alternatives.”

Looking forward to 2060, the NEA outlines six possible futures with the UK taking different approaches to using its natural resources. It estimates that focusing solely on the market value of ecosystems services goods, such as food stuffs, could cost the country £50 billion a year in comparison to a future that incorporates a wider understanding of the value of ecosystems.

“There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with,” said Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at Defra and co-chair of the NEA.

“The NEA shows we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management involving government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides.”

The NEA was described as a vital step forward in understanding the value of nature by environment secretary Caroline Spelman, who confirmed the NEA has played an important role in shaping the Natural Environment White Paper due later this month.

“I want our children to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it was left to them. In 50 years time I want them to be able to look back and see how much the value of nature has grown not diminished,” she said.

To read more about the NEA’s findings visit the NEA website.

Transform articles

Water companies fail to hit environmental targets

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

The UK government is not on track to deliver on its promise to improve the environment within a generation and is failing to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, a damning new report from MPs has revealed.

1st July 2021

Read more

Renewable energy will account for nearly 40% of the world's power mix by the end of this decade, overtaking coal within the next few years, according to research by GlobalData.

24th June 2021

Read more

The UK's solar energy capacity must treble over the next decade for the country to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but is only set to double under a business-as-usual scenario.

18th June 2021

Read more

The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) has today been launched to support financial institutions and corporates in assessing and managing emerging risks and opportunities as the world looks to reverse biodiversity loss.

4th June 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert