Natural capital priorities for coping with change

Current environmental, economic and societal challenges are huge. Here we list eight natural capital priorities and key questions for science, policy and business for building back better and reaching Net Zero with benefits to nature from our panel discussion with Sir Ian Boyd from the University of St Andrews, Ben Combes from PwC and Dr Laura Bellingan from the Royal Society of Biology.

February 2021

 Read our summary with 8 priorities and key questions

A canal surrounded by trees

Re-imagining the next decade

The pandemic has focused attention on the interconnectedness of people and nature, and the need for good environmental management. As well as the appreciation of access to nature and greenspace, awareness of issues such as food quality, wild nature, biodiversity risks, sustainability and fairness have been prominent. However, the severe negative economic impact of lockdowns on personal and national finances, and the uncertainties ahead, create a fiscally tough environment that could favour old favourite, safe-bet rapid return on investment options. Lately the popular focus on a green recovery has created a window for innovative thought-leadership on priorities for natural capital research, business and policy.

In our panel discussion we brought different societal, economic and environmental spheres together to contribute to a broader re-imagining and shaping of the next decade. From the discussion, we summarised key questions under eight natural capital priorities:

1. We need to use the momentum and reach new audiences.

2. Natural capital thinking needs to be mainstreamed into local and national decision-making.

3. Nature needs to be embedded in the economy.

4. We need metrics that demonstrate to policy-makers, businesses and local communities that natural capital has sustainable value.

5. We need to get to Net Zero with benefits to nature.

6. Environmental impacts and trade-offs between different land-use choices need to be made visible, also globally.

7. We need to engage people in decision-making that uses AI and models.

8. Nature could be embedded in legislation across government.

Read the complete summary with the key questions here.

Meet the panel

Chaired by Dr Laura Bellingan, Director of Policy & Public Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology and NCI Chair

Professor Sir Ian Boyd served as the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 to 2019. He is currently Professor in Biology at the University of St Andrews. Ian has worked extensively in marine and polar science in the UK and abroad. He has received the Polar Medal, Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and the Bruce Medal for his research in polar science.

Ben Combes is an Assistant Director at PwC and a Senior Economist in the Sustainability & Climate Change team. He is co-founder of PwC UK’s Innovation & Sustainability practice, working on tech for good projects, including AI for Earth with Microsoft and 4IR for the Global Goals with the World Economic Forum. He is also an expert adviser to PwC UK’s Net Zero leadership team and works with clients on climate tech and their net zero transformation strategies.