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Interdisciplinary dialogue key to valuing our life support systems

Natural capital refers to elements of nature that produce value (c) James Hutton
"Accounted correctly, our natural capital provides great advantages for business and policy-making.

Businesses that ignore nature could have a false impression of their viability and are missing out on long term business productivity, ecologists and economists have said at the Natural Capital Initiative summit – Valuing our Life Support Systems 2014, which takes place this week at the British Library with more than two hundred delegates in attendance and support from the James Hutton Institute.

Convenor of the summit, Professor Mike Acreman of the Centre for Hydrology & Ecology, said: “We tend to treat our environment as just a backdrop to human activity. We routinely ignore nature in business and policy decisions. Many of our actions destroy our natural capital. Yet, accounted correctly, our natural capital provides great advantages for business and policy-making.”

Coined by economist EF Schumacher, the concept of natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value (directly and indirectly) to people, including soils for food production, clean water for drinking and protection from hazards such as floods, as well as open space for exercise, refreshment and health protection.

The summit, which explores our natural capital and seeks ways to secure its care so that it can continue to provide for us, sees ecologists rubbing shoulders with accountants, land managers exchanging ideas with investment strategists and heritage experts sharing science with health professionals. At the end of the two days, scientists will have new ideas for research, businesses will have shared better practice, and policy makers will be better equipped to develop new policy proposals.

Delegates are to hear keynote speeches from Professor Giles Atkinson (LSE); Dr Simon Kerley (NERC); Peter Young (Aldersgate Group); Richard Spencer (ICAEW); Ulrike Hotopp (Defra); Jo Pike (World Forum on Natural Capital): Pieter van der Gaag (Natural Capital Coalition); Glyn Davies (WWF); Professor Anthony Kessel (Public Health England); Will Evison (PwC); Inder Poonaji (Nestle S.A.); Professor Georgina Mace (UCL).

Discussion sessions will focus on ethics, economics, conservation, business, knowledge and information, water management, tools and models, culture, policy and local partnerships. A key output from the summit will be a scorecard recording progress to date in making the concept of Natural Capital mainstream practice, and identifying where future efforts should be focussed.

A full programme for the meeting is available from the Natural Capital Initiative website. The meeting can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #VoLSS2014.

The meeting is the second summit organised by the Natural Capital Initiative, which is a partnership between four leading scientific organisations in the UK: The Society of Biology, the British Ecological Society, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the James Hutton Institute. The first summit in 2009 led to the formation of the Cabinet Office’s Natural Capital Committee, chaired by Dieter Helm.

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Printed from /news/interdisciplinary-dialogue-key-valuing-our-life-support-systems on 30/11/23 05:27:21 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.