The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature
The Natural Environment White Paper, The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, published by Defra on 7th June, outlines the Government’s vision for the natural environment over the next 50 years, along with practical action to deliver that ambition.
The Natural Choice is the first white paper on the natural environment in 20 years, and is directly linked to the recently published National Ecosystem Assessment, which showed the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment. The white paper also takes forward recommendations contained in Making Space for Nature, Professor Sir John Lawton’s independent review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network.
Essential for the economy, communities and wellbeing
The white paper recognises that the natural environment is sometimes taken for granted and undervalued, but that people cannot flourish without the benefits and services it provides, asserting that:
“A healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing.”
In her foreword, Secretary of State Caroline Spelman writes:
“Too often, we take for granted the goods, services and amenity value that nature freely provides us. They risk being lost as a consequence. We can and we must do things differently. With a new way of thinking we can nurture them. [...]
“Whether we live in the city or the countryside, natural systems support us. The natural environment becomes degraded when people lose their sense of contact with it. Human health and happiness also suffer. This White Paper aims to strengthen connections between people and nature, to the benefit of both. [...]
“Valuing nature properly holds the key to a green and growing economy, one which invests in nature – not just for us but for our children’s children.”
Key measures in the White Paper include:
- New Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change. With a £7.5 million fund for 12 initial NIAs to demonstrate just what can be done. Professor Sir John Lawton has agreed to chair the panel to allocate funding.
- Biodiversity offsetting – new way for developers to ensure we don’t lose wildlife sites and make them better by making and improving other sites.
- New Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations, with a £1 million available this year.
- Phasing out peat – working with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore our peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of our ecological network. A task force to consider all options to phase out use of peat in the supply chain will be chaired by Dr Alan Knight OBE.
Connecting people and nature for better quality of life
- Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.
- Better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns. Support for parks, gardens, and tree planting which benefit people and nature alike
- More children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.
- Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better health
- New environmental volunteering initiative “Muck in 4 Life” to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.
Capturing and improving the value of nature
- Natural Capital Committee – an independent body to report to the Government’s economic affairs committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This body will put the value of nature at the heart of the Government’s economic thinking, and advise Government about the best way of securing our natural assets for the future.
- An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc – showing where our economy has withdrawn from the value of nature’s bank balance, and where we have invested in it. This will help measure green growth alongside GDP.
- A business-led Task Force chaired by Kingfisher Group Chief Executive Officer Ian Cheshire, to expand the UK business opportunities from new products and services which are good for the economy and nature alike.
- Natural Environment White Paper: the full white paper, press release and related documents, including case studies on the key themes and targeted factsheets.
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