Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality? - The potential contribution of nature-based solutions to net zero in the UK Contents

Appendix 4: Technical terms and organisations

Blue Carbon

Carbon stored in marine or coastal ecosystems, including marine sediments.


CO2-equivalent is the metric used by the UK Government to aggregate greenhouse gas emissions across the Kyoto “basket” of seven greenhouse gases. It does so by adding together the greenhouse gas emissions multiplied by conversion factors, called Global Warming Potential, to account for the fact that some greenhouse gases are more powerful at warming per unit mass than others. (Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)).336

Natural Capital

Natural capital is an attempt to quantify the value of natural assets to humanity—including geology, soil, air, water, and all living things. Natural capital metrics are therefore an attempt establish a consistent methodology to quantify the value of the natural world, often in monetary terms.337

Ecosystem Services

From stocks of natural capital, humans derive ‘ecosystem services’, which include food, water, plant and animal materials used for fuel, medicines, building materials, and so on. Ecosystem services include natural flood defences, carbon storage, crop pollination, and ‘cultural ecosystem services’ such as the recreational value of the natural environment.


A unit of area equal to 10,000 square metres (or around 2.47 acres)

Marine Management Organisation

The Marine Management Organisation is a non-departmental public body set up in 2009 in England. Its responsibilities include marine planning, fisheries management, and, alongside Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, to protect and manage England’s Marine Conservation Zones.

Crown Estate

The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business with a diverse portfolio of UK buildings, shoreline, seabed, forestry, agriculture and common land. It is relevant to nature-based solutions due to its role in managing the sea floor.

336 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures’ (2 February 2021): [accessed 13 January 2022]

337 Whether natural capital or other forms of valuing nature and the benefits it provides are the correct approach, not only methodologically but also philosophically and morally, is an ongoing debate. Some argue that the process of extending the logic of the marketplace into how we treat nature may give licence to destroy it, or falsely assume that the benefits it provides are both reliably quantifiable comparable to other things measurable in monetary terms. Others argue that if no natural capital accountancy is undertaken, then the marketplace will ignore the benefits of nature and the losses when it is destroyed as an “externality”. While natural capital is often measured in monetary terms, as in the Office for National Statistics accounting of Britain’s natural capital, it is not clear that actual financial flows around these ecosystems will match this valuation: it is closer to a metric for trying to compare the value provided by different ecosystems.

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