Documents to download

It has been estimated that the UK’s population will rise by nearly 10 million in the next 25 years, increasing demands on natural resources. Evidence suggests degradation of ecosystems will negatively affect human wellbeing. Reports such as the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) global reports have highlighted the importance of incorporating the natural environment into national accounting frameworks. One way to achieve this is through natural capital (NC) valuation.

Key points in this POSTnote include:

  • Natural capital is a term used to describe those elements of the natural environment that provide benefits for humans.
  • In 2015, the Natural Capital Committee, a Government advisory group, made nine recommendations on how to account for natural capital. These included the creating of a 25-year plan for the environment.
  • Valuing natural capital in this way can help to manage environmental risks and to inform a wide range of decisions.
  • There are a number of challenges to accounting for natural capital including a lack of financial, environmental and social data and the UK’s use of other countries’ natural capital.

An update to this note was made 01 Feb 2017.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Mike Acreman, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology*
  • Professor Nick Hanley, School of Geography and Geosciences, St Andrew University*
  • Dr Diane Mitchell, Chief Environment Adviser, NFU*
  • Professor Paul van Gardingen, UNESCO Chair of International Development, Scholl of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Ian Bateman, Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute, University of Exeter.
  • Dr Deanna Donovan, JNCC
  • Brendan Freemans, ONS*
  • Emily Connors, ONS
  • Chris White, AECOM
  • Nick Grayson, Climate Change and Sustainability Manager at Birmingham City Council*
  • Professor Rosie Hails, Director for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Science, CEH
  • Will Evison, PwC Associate Director and Environmental Economist/Natural Capital Coalition
  • Rocky Harris, Defra
  • Julian Harlow, Natural Capital Committee Secretariat*

*Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.

Documents to download

Related posts

  • Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.

  • Plastic packaging waste has become a key consumer concern. In the UK, over 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging enter the consumer market each year. Much of this is used in the food sector because plastic packaging is cheap, light to transport, hygienic, and can be used to extend the product’s shelf-life. In the UK around 46% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, mostly through local authority collections. However several issues with the current systems of plastics recycling persist. This POSTbrief reviews proposals to Defra and HM Treasury to improve plastics recycling in the UK .

  • There is increasing interest in using machine learning to automatically analyse remote sensing data and increase our understanding of complex environmental systems. While there are benefits from this approach, there are also some barriers to its use. This POSTnote examines the value of these approaches, and the technical and ethical challenges for wider implementation.