Natural Capital is rapidly becoming a term used and heard by farmers and their advisors in everyday life. The importance of protecting the environment is something farmers have always been aware of; however the constant discussion of climate change issues and public awareness regarding the environment is increasingly driving environmental discussions by governments, companies and others.
Natural Capital is generally understood to describe the elements of the environment that benefit people. Examples can include physical benefits being clean water, the flooding of natural areas to prevent large spread flooding of towns and cities and carbon-capturing within timber and soil. Social benefits can include the maintenance of landscape features and access to rural areas, which is generally deemed to aid people’s health and wellbeing.
Policies aimed at increasing Natural Capital are likely to be delivered in many ways, including through future government schemes such as the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and through the development of control policies and regulation, promoting items such as water quality, air quality, carbon storage, flood water regulation and species rich habitats. Other tools may involve taxation or quota systems such as carbon credits and emission trading. We are also seeing movement from private organisations promoting this environmental shift, often involving the larger utility firms including water and electricity, resulting from public pressure and reputational issues. Moving forward we are yet to see the full impact of Natural Capital and how this will shape land management in the years to come, however it is clear that greater focus will be placed in these areas and this provides opportunities for many farmers and land managers.