The UK’s natural capital should be considered in flood protection proposals, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Speaking at New Civil Engineer’s Flood Management Forum, Defra head of water and flood integration Hazel Durant said that while the economic and societal cases for flood protection schemes are usually considered, the natural capital case is not.
The concept of natural capital places an economic value on services provided by nature, such as clean water. In July the Office for National Statistics (ONS) valued the UK’s freshwater capital at £39.5M.
Durant warned that if engineers and other professionals do not start valuing nature, it will not be adequately protected.
“If we think about nature as a hard asset, then we start to think about, actually, what do we do with it? How do we manage it? How do we protect it? How do we make sure that it’s there for the future?” she said.
Durant added that over the next few years Defra will consider how to build the concept of value gained from natural capital into public funding policy.
“How do we capture the natural capital value, or damage, that flood mitigation brings?” she said.
Defra was due to publish its 25-year plan for protecting the environment in 2016, but the plan has not yet been released. The independent Natural Capital Committee (NCC) is advising government while the plan develops.