UK Parliament votes to embed ‘natural capital’ into policy making, national accounts

Resolution backed by MPs after debate

A resolution backing the inclusion of ‘natural capital’ into policy making has been adopted by the UK parliament.
MPs backed a motion welcoming the first report from the new government-backed Natural Capital Committee (NCC) and urging the government to adopt the report’s recommendations and “to take concerted action to embed the value of natural capital in the national accounts and policy-making processes as early as possible”. Natural capital is defined as the elements of nature that produce value.
The committee, which is headed by Oxford University economist Dieter Helm and which sits within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), issued its first State of Natural Capital report in April.

The debate comes as leading financial industry players are backing the Natural Capital Declaration that was launched in 2011. The initiative has now grown to 44 signatories including names such as BBVA, Caisse des Dépôts, FMO, IFC, MN Services, National Australia Bank, Rabobank, Standard Chartered, Sumitomo Mitsui and UniCredit to name a few.

The parliamentary discussion was kicked off by Conservative MP Graham Stuart, who also chairs GLOBE International [Global Legislators Organisation]. GLOBE comprises national parliamentarians from over 70 countries committed to finding legislative solutions to climate change and sustainable development.Stuart said the NCC report “provides a framework—and a call to arms—for the government to place a value on natural capital”.

“Without an economic price, too often natural capital has been treated as if it is of no value, yet it is a fundamental component of every country’s portfolio of wealth,” he added.
Joan Walley, who chairs the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, called for a “long-term policy framework that supports and incentivises organisations, including financial institutions, to value and report on natural capital”. She wanted the Natural Capital Committee in future to be “much more direct and much more forward” in its thinking.
And Barry Gardiner, who is the opposition Labour party’s spokesman on the natural environment, cited The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report edited by Pavan Sukhdev which demonstrates the potential impact of the loss of ecosystems services on GDP. He also endorsed the work of the Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability project (A4S) and called on the government to ask companies to prepare annual corporate sustainability reports for shareholders.
The debate took place ahead of the World Forum on Natural Capital conference – which features Helm – in Edinburgh next month. Hansard record of debate