Some notes about Natural Capital

Natural capital is an idea whose time has come. It takes the analysis of the environment to a new level - way beyond the conventional sustainability and sustainable development approaches which have dominated in the last couple of decades.

The reasons why natural capital is the way to think about the great environmental challenges we face is because of three characteristics. Natural capital is all about assets – the assets nature provides us with for free; it forces us to see the environment as a (or indeed the) key input into the economy – ending the apartheid between economic growth and protecting and enhancing the environment; and by focussing on capital maintenance, it makes a clear distinction between renewable and non-renewable assets.

The damage to the natural environment accelerated during the twentieth century, and now is already reducing economic growth and development. The threat of climate change is widely understood. Perhaps less so is the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems – from the loss of the great rainforests to the declines of wild flowers, insects, birds and mammals. As these disappear this century, we will come to realise what we have lost, and how much of our economic well-being depends upon a flourishing natural environment.

To stop the rot, we need to keep the aggregate of natural capital from falling further. Indeed it needs to be improved. Not everything can be preserved, but what is damaged should be compensated for with gains elsewhere. Natural capital needs to be maintained and enhanced. For non-renewables – natural capital that can only be used once (such as oil, gas and minerals) –is a matter of which generation uses it. But when it is depleted there needs to be compensation, and the surplus revenues should be used to protect and enhance renewables  - the natural capital model just keeps on giving, provide we do not deplete it below the critical thresholds.

Natural Capital

Natural Capital
Environment

Natural Capital
Water

Latest Publication

OIP

Water - what is going on?

September 13, 2021

Water Publication

With rising discontent with the water sector, what has gone wrong, and what can be done to address the issues?

Publications

  • Publication Environment Why Net Zero Doesn’t Always Mean Net Zero
    July 8, 2021

    Interview discussing the challenges of climate change and the importance of facing up to the reality
  • Video Environment The Future of Farming - John Innes Centre talk
    May 21, 2021

    Looking at the implications of ELMS, robotics, gene editing and indoor farming, carbon offsetting and carbon markets, and the role of new tools like natural capital baselines in reshaping farming.
  • Publication Environment COP26 – too much hype, too little substance
    April 23, 2021

    However successful COP26 is claimed to be, in this paper Dieter Helm looks beyond the hype to the facts and, in particular, why the past 30 years of COP meetings have done little, if anything, to improve the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere.
  • Publication Environment Valuing carbon offsets
    March 15, 2021

    To achieve net zero, carbon sequestration needs to be taken seriously, alongside reducing emissions. But to do this, we need a credible carbon offset valuation.
  • Publication Environment Bespoke carbon taxes on food
    February 15, 2021

    Are carbon taxes on beef and dairy the answer to emissions from the UK agricultural sector? The issue needs to be addressed
  • Publication Environment Net carbon gain
    February 5, 2021

    Net Carbon Gain - a new principle, adding to the concepts of Net Biodiversity Gain and Net Environmental Gain
  • Video Environment Green Recovery Plans
    June 24, 2020

    Green Recovery Plans
  • Video Environment The Future of Natural Capital
    June 10, 2020

    Presentation for WIG: The Future of Natural Capital
  • Publication Environment BREXIT, trade and the environment – the highest standards rule
    June 2, 2020

    Trade has become an economic battleground in the retreat from globalisation. The US has made trade core to its foreign policy, mainly in respect of China, but also the EU and Russia. Trade sanctions are the weapon of choice in US global politics.
  • Video Environment Introduction to Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside
    April 16, 2020

    An Introduction to my new book - Green and Prosperous Land (Paperback)
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