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 that 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 to us 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. Moreover, by focusing on capital maintenance, natural capital makes a clear distinction between renewable and non-renewable assets.

Damage to the natural environment accelerated during the twentieth century, and is now 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 wildflowers, insects, birds and mammals. As these disappear this century, we will come to realise what we have lost, and how much of our economic wellbeing 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) – it 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, provided we do not deplete it below the critical thresholds.

The new interest comes from carbon sequestration and its critical role in meeting the net zero 2050 targets, and the company targets under pressure from ESG (environmental, social, and governance) rating. The risks of a silo approach to natural capital are obvious.

Natural Capital

Natural Capital
Environment

Natural Capital
Water

Latest Publication

ADA conference

ADA (Association of Drainage Authorities) 2021 conference

November 10, 2021

Water Video

Keynote presentation to the ADA 2021 conference

Publications

  • 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)
  • Publication Environment Is rewilding the answer?
    March 16, 2020

    The last decades have been characterised by the continued destruction of the natural environment, punctuated by the occasional “successes”, like Red Kites and Sea Eagles. Faced with the broad history of failure, many have turned to the idea that what is n
  • Publication Water Floods, water company regulation and catchments: time for a fundamental rethink
    March 2, 2020

    Floods happen. They always will. The question is how to limit their impact. Short of stopping the rain, there are several obvious strategies: holding water upstream; slowing flows; building walls and other physical barriers; and building resilience into p
  • Video Environment Introduction to Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside
    March 7, 2019

    An Introduction to my new book - Green and Prosperous Land
  • Publication Water Who owns the water companies?
    July 24, 2018

    Who owns the water companies? Are publicly quoted companies better than private equity and infrastructure owned companies? Does it really matter? All sorts of claims are being made, and the merit of the discussion is that it asks very good questions...
  • Publication Water Water Boarding
    February 14, 2018

    The water industry is in play - with the regulators, and with the politicians. Labour proposes to renationalise the water companies, and the government and the regulators are determined to toughen up the regulation to show that privatisation works for...
  • Video Water Water Boarding
    February 14, 2018

    The water industry is in play - with the regulators, and with the politicians. Labour proposes to renationalise the water companies, and the government and the regulators are determined to toughen up the regulation to show that privatisation works for...
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