The economic invisibility of nature is at the heart of most environmental problems. We live in a world where economics dominate decision making, but the values of nature are economically invisible. The result is a global economy where the destruction of nature is an economically rational choice and the conservation of nature an economically irrational cost.
Natural capital approaches can make the economic values of nature more visible. Quantifying the economic values of nature can be an important conservation tool for some audiences in some circumstances. But such approaches have their limits. Quantifying all of the values we derive from nature is near impossible and attempts to do so are almost always underestimates.
CCI has committed to placing biodiversity at the heart of natural capital. Various CCI partners work on different aspects of biodiversity economics and value. The Natural Capital Programme brings together various partner initiatives and expertise to add value to individual partner activities on biodiversity and natural capital but recognize that, while natural capital approaches are important for conservation, economic valuation of biodiversity represents a specific challenge. Making all the values of biodiversity matter requires understanding how and when to use economic approaches and when to go ‘beyond economics’.
In the current CCI Five Year Plan, partners identify a number of transformative actions as priorities for collaboration. One of these is ‘placing biodiversity at the heart of natural capital by promoting and enabling action by businesses and governments to address the often hidden and missing values of biodiversity as part of the natural capital they depend on’.
The Natural Capital Programme aims to harness the resources available across CCI to deliver this goal.
CCI partners have an unparalleled range of expertise and experience relevant to making the values of biodiversity matter across policy, business, finance and civil society. Within the University, the Conservation Research Institute includes some 40 researchers working on different aspects of the value of nature. The Bennet Institute for Public Policy and Centre for Science and Policy specialise in policy engagement whilst the Judge Business School and Institute of Sustainability Leadership specialise in business engagement. Within the non-University partners, UN Environment WCMC is active in national accounting for environmental values and a number of international green growth initiatives, IUCN is a partner in the global ‘We Value Nature’ Programme and is leading the development of a global policy on natural capital, FFI and BirdLife work closely with business and policy makers on conservation across the world and the RSPB has a strong role in UK policy on natural capital as well as demonstrating natural capital accounting and ecosystem flows across its sites.