A document with the above title has been published. Put together by a group representing a wide range of Government, academic, NGO and private sector interests, it is designed to provide a "comprehensive overview of the state of the natural environment in the UK and a new way of estimating our national wealth. It shows how we have under-valued our natural resources. Valuing them properly will enable better decision making, more certain investment, new avenues to wealth creation and jobs, and greater human well-being in changing times ahead." Its key messages include the following.
- The natural world, its biodiversity and its constituent ecosystems are critically important to our well-being and economic prosperity, but are consistently undervalued.
- Ecosystems and the services they deliver underpin our very existence. We depend on them to produce our food, regulate water supplies and climate, and breakdown waste products. They also provide pleasure and recreation and have a positive impact on health.
- The UK’s ecosystems are currently delivering some services well, but others are still in long-term decline. The growing UK population and its demands and expectations are likely to increase pressures on ecosystem services in a future where climate change will have an accelerating impact both here and in the world at large.
- Climate change is expected to lead to more frequent severe weather events and alter rainfall patterns, with implications for agriculture, flood control and many other services.
- A major challenge is sustainable intensification of agriculture: increasing food production while decreasing the environmental footprint.
- Allowing decisions to be guided by market prices alone forgoes opportunities for major enhancements in ecosystem services, with negative consequences for social well-being. Recognising the value of ecosystem services more fully would allow the UK to move towards a more sustainable future, in which the benefits of ecosystem services are better realised and more equitably distributed.
- A move to sustainable development will require an appropriate mixture of regulations, technology, financial investment and education, as well as changes in individual and societal behaviour and adoption of a more integrated, rather than conventional sectoral, approach to ecosystem management.