Natural capital is the natural world. It is all that stuff that we inherited that we could pass on to future generations: fish in the sea, carbon in forests, reedbeds that clean water supplies, bird song that makes me smile, pollinators, genetic variation. Just unimportant stuff like that.
The point is that we treat this stuff – otherwise known as life on earth – as fairly unimportant because it comes free and we don’t individually get a bill for our use of it. Some think that building a more proper economic valuation of nature into our lives would help to protect nature. This is worth a try – and that’s what the Natural Capital Committee is trying to do.
I hope the Committee, chaired by acerbic (some say) economist Professor Dieter Helm, make some progress. I’d be surprised if George Osborne is going to give their findings a moment of his time but he should think about the key messages of their first report:
- Natural capital assets are in decline and these trends should be measured.
- Changes in natural capital should be properly included in national and corporate accounts.
- Changes in natural capital should be properly valued and those values more effectively included in decision– making processes.
- Stewardship of natural capital is good for growth