What’s it about in short: Green Alliance’s policy director, Sue Armstrong Brown says if the market pays to protect the environment where it can and conservation intervenes to protect the environment where it must, is the best chance we have to achieve landscape scale restoration of natural places and systems.
When was it released: January 25, 2016
By whom: Green Alliance, Sue Armstrong Brown
The internecine struggle between supporters of natural capital and nature conservation continues to dominate the debate about how to restore the declining health of the UK’s natural environment. But what if they’re both right?
Proponents of the natural capital approach claim it’s the way to include the environment in economic decision making, and discount nature conservation as ‘utopian’. Opponents say it delegitimises protecting nature simply for nature’s sake, and provides a fig leaf to cover inadequate implementation of environmental policies.
Our new report, Natural partners: why nature conservation and natural capital approaches should work together, published today, identifies the distinctive strengths of the two schools of thought and concludes they should be complementary.
A strategic combination
Combining natural capital and conservation policy approaches could offer the best of both worlds. The strength of the natural capital approach is its potential to internalise many of the external costs of environmental damage into the economy, so that it makes good business sense to look after the environment and costs you to damage it.
The degree of policy development needed to bring this about shouldn’t be underestimated, but with every flood event and global climate summit, the reasons to do it are getting clearer. The strength of the nature conservation approach, to complement this, is to cut through the complexities and perversities of commerce, protect the irreplaceable, no matter what the competing demands might be, and to recognise that we are all richer for cherishing nature.
Most of us will instinctively prefer one of the approaches to protecting the natural environment over the other. But aligning the two approaches, so the market pays to protect the environment where it can and conservation intervenes to protect the environment where it must, is the best chance we have to achieve landscape scale restoration of natural places and systems. In the end, nature needs people, and people need nature.