What’s it about in short: Miles King writes about Natural Capital day at the Green Alliance and the related report (called Natural Partners) and debate.
When was it released: January 27, 2016
By whom: Miles King, a new nature blog
Monday was Natural Capital day at the Green Alliance. They produced a report called Natural Partners, in which they sought to explain that Natural Capitalists and Nature Conservationists could get along fine, instead of bickering. On the same day, they held a Natural Capital debate in London, which I went along to. There was a very good turnout.
But my fear is that a headlong drive towards Natural Capital framing will create a global market in natural capital credits and debts. What would happen? The creation of natural capital offshoring – akin to corporate tax avoidance. Companies would set up subsidiaries in natural capital havens, where the “debits” would accrue without penalty. Natural Capital credits would be accounted for in those countries which required it (through regulation or “best practice”). Create a global market in natural capital and you create an opportunity for Natural Capital flight to the country with the weakest ethical framework (or none at all).
The report concluded, wisely, that “only in rare circumstances could a Natural capital approach lead private investment into restoration of lost or degraded ecosystems” but, intriguingly suggested that it may work best in the sphere of productive land-use.
The debate was quite interesting – I though Professor Georgina Mace spoke the most sense, urging great caution with how Natural Capital may end up not only delivering nothing new, but providing a justification for business as usual to continue. Prof Mace made a heartfelt plea that Natural Capital approaches could work but was clearly doubtful whether they would. Mace also pointed out that a Natural Capital approach has to recognise that there will be winners and losers – and that disparities may function between different sections of society, across different locations, and at different points in time – eg future generations may pay the cost of our inability to protect stocks of natural capital now.