The UN-backed World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted to understanding the economic value of natural capital

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, will join the prestigious line-up of speakers on the first day of the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh this November.

The UN-backed event will help business and sustainability leaders to identify the economic value of natural capital – the world’s natural resources such as water, forests and biodiversity, on which we rely for our economic and social wellbeing.

The Scottish Government has already exercised leadership in the field of natural capital, by developing Scotland’s Natural Capital Asset Index*, the first of its kind in the world, and has committed to using the index to influence decision-making.

Natural capital accounting is a rapidly evolving concept that will allow businesses and governments to better understand the impact of their activities on the natural world and to begin quantifying the risks to their “business models” from the depletion of natural capital.

Although resource scarcity is already creating price volatility and other financial risks, there is no consensus on how businesses should account for natural capital. A better understanding of the principles of natural capital accounting will improve business decision making and policy making.

The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together business leaders, environmental experts and government representatives to help businesses identify opportunities and risks, and agree action. The UN is targeting 2020 for the incorporation of biodiversity values into national accounting and reporting processes.

Alex Salmond commented, “Vital sectors such as tourism and food and drink depend on Scotland’s high quality air, land and water – our natural capital – to thrive the way they do. Nature provides many benefits to Scotland, those that we can put a monetary figure on are, according to research**, estimated to be worth between £21.5 to £23 billion per year to the economy.”

Alex Salmond by Harris Morgan

Alex Salmond by Harris Morgan

"Preserving and improving our natural capital is essential both for environmental reasons and for sustainable economic growth – each reinforcing the need to protect our environment. In June we published the 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity. It aims to protect and restore biodiversity on land and in our seas, support healthier ecosystems and maximise the benefits of a diverse natural environment.

Without a doubt Scotland’s rich and diverse environment is a natural asset. Despite it not always being obvious, nature supports Scotland’s economy, let alone the wider wellbeing of our people. Later this week I will encourage conference delegates to consider the true value of Scotland’s natural capital as well as the negative impact our actions can have on such an essential national resource.

Jonathan Hughes, World Forum Programme Director, and Council Member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, added: "We are delighted that the First Minister will be addressing delegates at this inaugural event.

"Scotland has an opportunity to exercise leadership in this important, developing area. The natural world is our life support system and recognising its value to our economy and our well-being is a crucial first step in protecting and restoring it. It is in everyone's interests to work together to address the serious threats posed by the depletion of our natural capital and this is what the World Forum is all about."

The World Forum on Natural Capital is organised by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in association with the UN Environment Programme, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, International Union for Conservation of Nature, TEEB for Business Coalition and The Wildlife Trusts.

The event will take place on 21-22 November at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Full details can be found at

* Scotland’s Natural Capital Asset (NCA) Index, Scottish National Heritage (2012)

** Research mentioned in the First Minister’s comments refers to: Williams E (2009) Preliminary exploration of the use of ecosystem services values in a regulatory context. Environmental and Resource Economics Project Report for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

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