Defra and the ONS are working on an interdisciplinary project which brings ecological and economical expertise together to establish an integrated set of natural capital accounts.

This project aims to provide a consistent framework for natural capital accounting in the UK, adapting the United Nation’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) which contains agreed standard concepts, classifications and accounting rules, for UK purposes.

The developed set of integrated accounts will be important for monitoring the losses and gains in our natural environment, and for informing management decisions, say Defra. The accounts will measure the stock of assets, and the flow of services from those assets, as well as taking into account the importance of spatial factors, and from this build various policy relevant indicators.

Defra and the ONS outlined the three different types of accounts at their recent Natural Capital Conference:

  1. High level, aggregate accounts are an estimate of UK wide natural capital. These accounts are divided by services. i.e. Non-renewable provisioning services such as oil, gas and coal; Renewable provisioning services such as fisheries, timber and water; Regulatory services including Carbon sequestration, and Cultural services, namely recreation.
  2. Cross- cutting, or ‘thematic’ assets look at land cover and land use, and build from the Countryside Survey and the National Ecosystem Assessment habitat classifications (such as Woodland and Farmland ) and knits these accounts together.
  3. The team are also looking at partial Carbon stock and flow accounts- a highly experimental approach looking at biocarbon (soil and vegetation) and geocarbon (fossil fuels) stocks, with the aim of making these accounts more consistent with the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The group are also conducting scoping studies for Coastal Margins, Peatland and Spatially Disaggregated Woodland and Marine ecosystems accounts, and are continually developing the principles that underpin these accounts. The accounts are bring developed with stakeholders early on in the process to ensure that the data is useful and relevant, and analysed, peer reviewed and improved over time.

For more information on the ONS- Defra Natural Capital accounting project, visit their website and sign up to their quarterly newsletter.

The Natural Capital Initiative will be holding a meeting to explore the application of Natural Capital data in local decision making on the 20th October in central London. If you are interested in participating in this event, please contact us and check back to our website for updates.