2 Strategic direction of the White
Genesis of the White Paper
3. The core policies of the Natural Environment White
Paper (NEWP) reflect the Government's belief that it is important
to manage ecosystems in a more integrated fashion to achieve a
wider range of services and benefits.
The NEWP builds on the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA),
published in June 2011.
The NEA contains a wealth of scientific evidence on the state
of the UK's natural environment and provides an overarching assessment
of the benefits that nature provides to the UK.
The Assessment found that societal changes including population
growth, increased living standards, technological developments
and globalised consumption patterns had reduced some ecosystems'
ability to deliver some services. Of the range of services delivered
in UK's eight aquatic and terrestrial habitat types, about 30%
are in decline.
4. Figure 1 below shows the decline between 1970
and 2009 in farmland bird populationsone of the key indicators
of the health of UK ecosystems.Figure
1: The UK Farmland Bird Index 1970-2009, calculated on data from
19 individual farmland bird species
Source: UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Synthesis
of the Key Findings, p 8, figure 3
5. The NEA sets out a new way of estimating national
wealth intended to take fully into account the value of natural
resources. Central to both the NEWP and the NEA is the idea that
both national and individual wealth is dependent on the environment,
not only for the supply of food and raw materials, but also for
the provision of vital underpinning services such as purifying
air and water, breaking down wastes and maintaining the climate.
The environment also provides recreation and health benefits to
society. Figure 2 demonstrates the conceptual framework for the
NEA showing the links between ecosystems, the services they provide,
valuation of those services and impacts on human well-being.
Conceptual framework for the UK National Ecosystem Assessment
Source: UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Synthesis
of the Key Findings, p 15, figure 9
Key aims of the White Paper
6. The NEA notes that many of the benefits provided
by ecosystems are not reflected in market prices. For example
clean and regular water supplies, climate regulation and outdoor
recreation are not priced with regard to ecosystems.
However, the Assessment notes that it is "easy to demonstrate"
that the services of the natural world underpin billions of pounds
of economic activity. Examples of UK annual values include:
- £350 million for fish
- £430 million for biodiversity pollination
- river-water quality improvements worth up to
£1 billion; and
- net carbon sequestration by woodland worth some
In addition there are over three billion recreational
visits to the countryside generating a social value in excess
of £10 billion each year. In contrast, there are significant
costs to the economy from activities which deplete ecosystems
services, such as average annual costs of flooding of some £1.4
billion. Under extreme climate change scenarios these annual costs
could rise to some £20 billion by 2060.
7. Drawing on the NEA's analysis, the NEWP identified
a need to recognise the value of nature across society, including
by encouraging greater local action to protect and improve nature.
The White Paper also aims to create a green economy in which economic
growth and the health of natural resources sustain each other
and in which markets, business and government better reflect the
value of nature.
8. The NEWP contains 92 specific actions and sets
out a range of policy levers to achieve its broad aims, including
proposals based on regulation, on incentives and on markets for
ecosystems services. Defra's Minister for Natural Environment
and Fisheries, Richard Benyon, told us that the NEWP was an "ambitious"
paper comprising a "framework document of how we envisage
valuing and enhancing nature way into the future".
The fledgling concept of developing markets for the services delivered
by the natural environment is perhaps the most innovative and
bold aspect of the NEWP and one which we consider in further detail
later in this report.
Response to main themes in the
9. Most of our evidence supported the overall aims
of the NEWP, particularly its aim to secure the value of nature
in decision-making and its ambition to widen the public's engagement
with the natural environment. Leading experts on ecosystems services
welcomed the NEWP's publication. For example, Pavan Sukhdev, project
leader for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEBB),
told us that he was "delighted" since the NEWP "met
the need to map ecosystems services and attempt to put values
on them". He
added that the UK was "within a few years of actually creating
natural capital adjustments to be reflected in national accounts".
Chris Knight, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, told us that his organisation
"strongly welcomed" the NEWP for its consistency with
the private sector's ecosystems services work and for putting
the UK "within the dozen leading countries in the world"
on this issue.
10. The farming sector also welcomed the aims of
the NEWP. It understood the perception that there was a tension
between securing food production and maximising environmental
benefits, but did not consider this to be insurmountable. The
National Farmers' Union told us that it was pleased that the NEWP
recognised the "important role that farmers play as managers
and stewards of the countryside alongside their vital role in
achieving society's ambitions to produce food and to protect water,
wildlife and soil".
NGOs added their support, with the National Trust for example
endorsing the "repositioning of nature as central to economic
prosperity and people's quality of life".
11. Industrial organisations told us about the economic
opportunities that the White Paper's approaches might bring to
their sectors. For example, Balfour Beatty told us that it saw
the sustainability agenda as an "opportunity to grow our
business in the green economy" provided that more sustainable
outcomes were valued by customers, "including local and national
However, some industrial sector witnesses were not convinced of
the appropriateness of using the ecosystems approach with, for
example, the Association of Electricity Producers considering
there to be no evidence from other countries that it was currently
a "viable basis for general regulatory or business decision-making".
12. A small number of commentators criticised the
NEA and the NEWP for placing a "price on everything and a
value on nothing," arguing that intrinsic values of nature
would not be considered.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) told us that it was
important that "nature be valued in its own right".
Other witnesses were concerned about the impact of market approaches
on the ability to protect the natural environment. For example,
the Food Ethics Council told us that applying economics to natural
services at worst perpetuated the dangerous conceit that markets
would respect nature because of the value which had been placed
on it. However, such
views were very much in the minority.
13. We recognise
that both economic and intrinsic values need to be taken into
account in valuing the full benefits that nature brings to society.
We welcome the White Paper's ambitious aim of reflecting the value
of natural capital in government policy-making and thus providing
a more comprehensive set of data on which to conduct proper cost-benefit
analyses. We further endorse attempts to apply new tools such
as ecosystems services valuations to policy evaluation. We welcome
in particular the White Paper's recognition that protection and
enhancement of the natural environment delivers economic as well
as environmental and social benefits.
14. We finished taking evidence before Defra published
the final report of the Independent Panel on Forestry in July.
The Panel recommended that "society as a whole value woodlands
for the full range of benefits they bring" and called on
the Government to "pioneer a new approach to valuing and
rewarding the management, improvement and expansion of the woodland
ecosystems for all the benefits they provide to people, nature
and the green economy". 
We endorse this view. Defra
should accept the Independent Panel on Forestry's recommendation
on valuing services provided by woodlands such that forest management
which provides a range of ecosystem benefits is rewarded.
5 NEWP p 7, para 1.7 Back
Living with Environmental Change, UK National Ecosystem Assessment:
Understanding Nature's Value to Society, Synthesis of the Key
Findings, June 2011 (Referred to in this report as 'NEA '
or 'UKNEA') Back
NEWP p 7, para 1.4 Back
NEWP p 7, para 1.6 Back
NEA synthesis report p 42 Back
UK National Ecosystem Assessment, Human Well-being: Economic
Values from Ecosystems, Chapter 22, pp 1068-9 Back
NEWP p 3, para 3 Back
Q 269 Back
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project was
established following a meeting of G8+5 Environment Ministers
in 2007 which agreed to "initiate the process of analysing
the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs
of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective
measures versus the costs of effective conservation." www.teebweb.org Back
Q 2 Back
Q 47 Back
Q 3 Back
Ev 98 Back
Q 10, Ellie Robinson Back
Ev 121 Back
Ev w87 Back
Infochange website www.infochangeindia.org/environment Back
Ev 87 Back
Ev w15 Back
Independent Panel on Forestry, Final Report, July 2012,
p 7 Back