Osborne urged to invest in nature

Tuesday 19th March 2013

cpt Zsuzsanna Bird

As the pressure mounts on George Osborne to ‘go for growth’ in his budget announcement tomorrow, The Wildlife Trusts call on the Chancellor to recognise that our long-term prosperity will depend on restoring our natural capital.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“At a time when the Government is looking to put the economy on a secure footing, the Chancellor should be looking at investment in the natural environment as a way to secure long-term prosperity.

“Many natural and green infrastructure projects could be up and running with economically beneficial work being delivered within months, rather than years.

“Investing in our natural capital will help to underpin the economy in the long term, and often provides more benefits at lower cost than investing in damaging infrastructure projects like road building.”

The Chancellor should be looking at investment in the natural environment as a way to secure long-term prosperity

The Public Forest Estate delivers annual benefits of more than £400m – benefits for the economy, for people and for wildlife – for an investment of just £20m.  When compared with the £86m cost of one road scheme – the Hastings to Bexhill link road – which even the Department for Transport admits will have limited benefits – it is clear investment in nature is exceptional value for money.

Stephanie Hilborne continues:

“Unfortunately, while the figures clearly show investment in our natural environment is the right thing to do, the Treasury has so far failed to recognise this. It has stuck to an outdated and unproven view which sees the environment as a barrier to growth.

“We believe the Treasury is blocking the designation of Marine Conservation Zones because of cost concerns, yet it is completely ignoring the evidence that protecting the marine environment will actually deliver economic benefits1.

“Businesses are waking up to the need to protect the environment for their long-term success, it is time the Chancellor joined them2.”

Notes for editors:

1 Securing the benefits of MCZs
Experience from across the world has shown that Marine Protected Areas provide economic and social benefits that far outweigh the costs of designation and management. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that Defra’s own impact assessment for the Marine Conservation Zones failed to provide any monetary benefits for the designation of individual sites or for the network as a whole. An analysis of the initial Impact Assessment was carried out by Hull University. To showcase the potential benefits from the proposed network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English and offshore Welsh waters, The Wildlife Trusts commissioned a report from The Centre for Marine and Coastal Policy Research at Plymouth University.

Securing the benefits of MCZs analysed the provision of ecosystem services and processes across the entire recommended MCZ network of 127 sites and carried out more detailed analysis of four recommended MCZs (North of Celtic Deep, Holderness Inshore, Kingmere and Torbay).  You can see the full report here.

Seabed User and Developer Group
Industry body the Seabed User and Developer Group (SUDG) represents interests committed to sustainable development, including renewable energy, ports, marine leisure firms, and some oil and gas projects.

In October 2012, The Wildlife Trusts, in conjunction with the Sea Bed User and Developer Group, Marine Conservation Society, RSPB and WWF, issued a joint statement addressing our shared vision for marine conservation in the UK was produced.  Read this statement here.

2 Ecosystems Markets Task Force (EMTF)
Realising nature’s value is a report from the independent, business-led, Ecosystems Markets Task Force.  Published on 5 March, it strongly signals the need to take a fresh look at business opportunities linked to protecting and restoring the natural environment.  This Task Force brings together industry leaders and experts from a wide range of sectors, ranging from banking and biodiversity conservation to beauty, to look for ways in which companies can improve both the environment and their bottom line.  On 6 November 2012, the Task Force published its Interim Report, Why valuing the natural environment correctly matters for business.  The report set out the aims of the Task Force, its emerging thinking on why nature should matter to business and the potential opportunities for business from valuing nature correctly.  Led by Ian Cheshire, Group Chief Executive of retail group Kingfisher plc, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force (EMTF) will review the opportunities available to UK business that could help them develop green goods, services, investment vehicles and markets which value and protect the environment. The Task Force will report back to the Government in early 2013 through the Green Economy Council. You can read the report on Defra’s website.

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