The inaugural meeting of the Natural Capital Initiative began in London yesterday with influential speakers setting out their vision for a truly holistic ecosystem approach to managing our natural resources. Speakers including the Rt Hon Eliot Morley MP, Lord May of Oxford and Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor, took to the stage to urge policy-makers, natural and social scientists to work far more closely together to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.
Over the course of yesterday’s key note speeches and today’s targeted workshops several themes have emerged. The need for greater inter and multi-disciplinary working has been picked up strongly by speakers and participants, as has the need for greater communication with the public over the concept of ecosystem services. Empowering and enabling communities to take action to secure the services they want from their environment has been a key message, possibly involving innovative new models of taxation. Another theme has been the need for far greater evidence regarding the role of biodiversity in providing ecosystem services, and the need to understand which ecosystem services are being provided in particular areas: something it is hoped that the forthcoming National Ecosystem Assessment can deliver.
Presentations yesterday from Tesco and Eurostar highlighted that the private sector is taking action towards improving its impact on the environment, with Tesco leading pilot trials at two supermarkets to reduce consumer packaging and a firm commitment to reducing carbon emissions across its stores. Business responds of course to consumer demand, but Richard Brown, CEO of Eurostar, stressed that business should also be leading the way and not waiting for legislation to force companies to take action.
Following expertly facilitated workshops today focusing on ecosystem services in relation to rural land use and urban planning, a final session tomorrow (Friday) will examine the challenges posed by the need to integrate the demand for food, recreation and energy in the marine environment, looking specifically at offshore wind energy generation.
The Natural Capital Initiative is a partnership between the Institute of Biology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Ecological Society. Together we aim to better link sectors with a stake in the environment and policy-makers, to tackle the gaps in research and implementation with respect to an ecosystem approach, and find solutions. You can find out more about this week’s symposium, and future events we have planned, at www.naturalcapitalinitiative.org.uk.
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