An ambitious new online resource has been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ensure better environmental decision-making by valuing our ‘natural capital’.
The ‘Enabling a Natural Capital Approach’ (ENCA) project is a comprehensive and integrated set of evidence and guidance about UK natural capital that is now accessible from one place. The aim is to help policy makers, businesses, landowners and public sector organisations make better planning decisions in order to protect and to boost natural capital.
‘Natural capital’ is the sum of our ecosystems, providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards. This approach will make it easier for public and private organisations to better assess and value the environment. This will help deliver benefits including long-term flood risk reduction, boosts to wildlife, improvements to water and air quality, and opportunities for biodiversity net gain.
The project delivers on a commitment in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The resource was developed in collaboration with experts from across Defra and its agencies. It was informed by the work of academic, professional and voluntary bodies such as the Valuing Nature Network, to ensure the best available evidence is included in a user-friendly way. It will also help support the delivery of Nature Recovery Networks – part of the government’s Environment Bill.
ENCA builds directly on HM Treasury’s ‘Green Book’ guidance. This is a standard to which government policies and projects must be measured against, so that government departments fully take account of the natural environment in policy design and publicly funded projects.
This meets the recommendation of the Natural Capital Committee’s Annual Report (2019) to have robust values and resources when assessing environmental impacts.