B8.10 Wildlife & Conservation


B8.10.1           Policies in relation to the Natural Environment


The natural environment underpins our economic prosperity, our health and our wellbeing. It is the whole of the living world, including air, water, biodiversity, land, soil and the marine environment.

Apart from the things we can sell (e.g. food and timber), the value of our natural systems to society is largely hidden, which means they are often not valued in decision making and are therefore vulnerable to loss and degradation.

Government policies for protecting the natural environment are not sufficiently integrated to provide a sustainable future. If we are to achieve sustainable patterns of economic and social development a different approach to policy development and implementation for environmental goods and services needs to be adopted. The United Nations ‘Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’ (a four year study involving 1300 scientists), not only recognised the multiple benefits that ecological systems provide but also highlighted that policy and planning decisions must take into account an ecosystems approach (EA) to be truly sustainable.

We already have ways to make sure individual aspects of our natural environment are protected from direct harm. However, as a society we are putting more and more pressure on our environment, which is damaging the way all the individual bits of it work together in systems.

This is a problem because by damaging these ‘ecosystems’ we are reducing the natural environment’s ability to give us valuable services that underpin our economic, social and personal well-being. These include filtering pollution, providing food, timber and other resources, giving us health and recreational benefits and regulating the flow of water.

DEFRA is promoting that policy move towards an ecosystem approach. Studies are currently underway relating to ecosystem services and their value to society.

Further information is available in the DEFRA publication: What nature can do for you. A practical introduction to making the most of natural services, assets and resources in policy and decision making, October 2010; available here: B8.10.1 DEFRA – What NCDFY

Protecting the environment and enhancing biodiversity is one of DEFRA’s top three priorities, as outlined in the Department’s Business Plan. A key commitment under this priority is the publication of the Natural Environment White Paper.