There is currently no proper measure of the value from Scotland's natural environment.
Yesterday saw the launch of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital (www.naturalcapitalscotland.com), a new project to bring together public, private and voluntary sector organisations to protect and rebuild Scotland's natural capital. The First Minister, Alex Salmond, will announce the Scottish Government's support for the initiative in his address to delegates at the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital, taking place in Edinburgh today and tomorrow.
The Scottish Forum on Natural Capital will enable businesses and policy makers to make informed decisions about their impact on the environment, to assess the financial and other benefits they obtain from Scotland's natural capital, and to make a concerted effort to protect it.
Announced at the inaugural UN-backed World Forum on Natural Capital taking place in Edinburgh, the Scottish Forum includes five founding partners: The Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scotland's 2020 Climate Group, the University of Edinburgh, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS), and the Institute of Directors, Scotland.
Attended by almost 500 people from 35 countries, the UN-backed World Forum on Natural Capital is helping 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 our economic and social wellbeing depend.
Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, says: "During the Year of Natural Scotland, I am delighted to welcome delegates from over 35 countries to Edinburgh for the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital. This is the first major global conference to discuss the challenge of 'valuing' and conserving our natural resources: our high quality water, land and air. I hope this event becomes a regular fixture and that Scotland, a country with a rich and diverse natural environment, will continue to play a pivotal role.
"As part of the 2013 World Forum, I am pleased to announce a new Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, which will bring together public, private and voluntary sectors to help protect and rebuild Scotland's natural capital. It will also offer leadership in the hope of increasing action both in Scotland and beyond.
"An early focus for the Scottish Forum will be on peatlands, which is especially fitting since they form a substantial part of the Scottish landscape and are widely recognised as important in climate change mitigation, biodiversity and water quality. The Scottish Government has long acknowledged the benefits of peatland restoration and is making every effort to conserve this vital and valuable resource."
Simon Milne, Chief Executive at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, says: "The value of Scotland's natural assets to sectors like tourism, food and drink, and to society as a whole is huge. Without a better appreciation of this value we cannot properly track the damage that we are doing to our natural assets, nor can we properly incorporate this value into decision making."
To deliver on its goals, the Scottish Forum will:
1. Calculate the monetary value of Scotland's natural capital and the cost of depleting it. This will involve coordinating experts including accountants, people from business, academics and policymakers.
2. Communicate to a broad range of businesses and other stakeholders the risk of depleting Scotland's natural capital and the huge economic value from protecting and enhancing it.
3. Set up collaborative projects to deliver tangible action to protect and enhance Scotland's natural capital.
Research by academics has estimated that nature is worth between £21.5 to £23 billion per year to Scotland's economy.
The Scottish Forum on Natural Capital will build on tools already in place, like Scotland's Natural Capital Asset Index.* The Index was recently developed by the Scottish Government, which has committed to using the index to influence decision-making.
Simon Milne continues: "The World Forum on Natural Capital is a world-first in terms of understanding how natural capital accounting can inform decision making by everyone from small business to large NGOs. The Scottish Forum will use the understanding we are developing to inform how we go about protecting and improving Scotland's natural capital.
"We hope that the Scottish Forum will provide a blueprint to other countries of how they can encourage collaboration to find new ways to protect and enhance the natural environment, to the benefit of their people and their economies.
"There is no reason why England and Wales should not be taking this just as seriously as every country has as much a financial stake in their natural assets as Scotland has.
"Crucially we hope to use the principles of natural capital to help more businesses see the benefits of acting differently and galvanise more action to invest in Scotland's natural capital."
Ian Marchant, Chairman of Scotland's 2020 Climate Group, says, "Scotland's natural capital is one of its most defining features and it has never been more important to protect and enhance it.
"Only by creating an economic environment that recognises the value of the services provided to us by nature will businesses and other interested parties be able to make the informed decisions that will lead them to invest in preserving and improving Scotland's natural environment."
The vision of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital is of:
• A Scotland in which all parts of society, including companies, NGOs, the Government, public bodies and communities, recognise our reliance on natural capital and the impact we have on it.
• A Scotland in which an understanding of our relationship with natural capital leads to action to protect and rebuild it.
• A Scotland which is exercising leadership to galvanise action both here and beyond Scotland's borders.
Membership of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital will be open to organisations that would like to contribute to achieving this vision, whether they are from businesses, NGOs, public bodies or community groups.
* Scotland's Natural Capital Asset (NCA) Index, Scottish National Heritage (2012)