Government advisor demands key role for natural capital in public policy appraisal

Natural capital is barely being considered in policy appraisal, and this must be urgently addressed given the government’s green objectives, the Natural Capital Committee said last week.

The NCC published an update to its 2018 ‘Green Book guidance’ on embedding natural capital into public policy appraisal, in light of the 25 Year Environment Plan, 2050 net zero carbon policy and other binding long term targets for the environment. It recommended actions including:

• the evaluation criteria for passing a policy impact assessment should be amended to include a robust assessment of the impact on natural capital – where a loss is likely, proposals should be "red flagged" for further scrutiny;

• the new Office for Environmental Protection “should have a requirement to take a strategic approach in scrutinising impact assessments related to policy proposals for meeting environmental objectives”; and

• departments and agencies developing policy should have access to independent, expert advice on the valuation of natural capital – “current tools/models need significant development and the government should invest urgently in developing a baseline census of natural assets, understanding the associated benefits and models capable of assessing the natural capital system wide impacts of policy interventions.”