Coalition to put value on nature

Looking after the Peak District’s natural assets on an unprecedented scale is the idea behind new Government proposals.

Carol Spelman, Secretary of Sate for Department of Food and Rural Affairs, told the Advertiser that Natural Environment White Paper sets out to spread an understanding of our dependence on it

And it aims to demonstrate how nature is the backbone of the local economy by putting a value on natural assets which in the past have been squandered.

“The Peak District offers a whole range of benefits, including healthy recreation, peace and quiet, education and appreciation of natural beauty and wildlife,” said Ms Spelman.

“It also naturally stores carbon dioxide in its peat bogs, thereby cutting the amount of CO2 in the air. The Peak District provides food, and grouse shooting makes an important contribution to the local economy.

“All in all it contributes around £155 million to the region and supports over 14,000 jobs, and supplies 450 million litres of water a day to surrounding towns and cities.

“As well as having a place in our hearts, nature is the backbone of our economy. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution we have taken from nature without giving back.”

The proposals would enable ‘UK plc’ to have a profit-and-loss account on how nature is faring, and the boss of retail group Kingfiher is leading a taskforce aiming to develop nature-based products which are good for the environment and the economy.

“So far our approach to nature conservation has been piecemeal: to designate certain areas and help them flourish, ignoring the bits in between,” saids Ms Spelman.

“Instead we need to adopt a ‘landscape scale’ approach, helping these islands of nature to join up with each other. We want to help councils, businesses and civil society work in partnership to protect and enhance nature on a scale that ignores administrative and other man-made boundaries.

“The White Paper describes how Government will help connect the economy with nature. We shall be assessing the state of our ‘natural wealth’, alongside our GDP, so that we can put nature at the heart of economic planning.

“So, if a river is at risk of pollution, we can estimate exactly how much that pollution would cost us. The cost of the loss of tourism, of healthy recreation opportunities, and the cost of the filtration system we’d need to build downstream, in order to make the water fit for use.

“Let’s be the generation that leaves the natural environment in a better state than we inherited.”

• For Ms Spelman’s ideas in full, see www.buxtonadvertiser.co.uk