The Budget 2013: Value of nature lost on this Government

Thursday 21st March 2013

Chancellor George Osborne put long-term prosperity at risk with a short-term bid for growth in the budget.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its beleaguered environmental agencies face further big cuts after the Chancellor raided the Department’s budget to pay for more spending on major infrastructure projects.

Even before the anticipated £11.5bn extra cuts across Government, to be announced in June, £37m will be lost from Defra and its already cash-strapped agencies which have huge responsibilities for dealing with flooding, water pollution, plant and tree diseases and protecting and enhancing important places for wildlife.

The savings will contribute to increased spending on potentially damaging major infrastructure from 2015-16, and coincide with a drop in petrol duty.

The Wildlife Trusts have been calling on the Chancellor to invest in the natural environment – our natural capital - as a way to secure our long-term prosperity.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Despite the fundamental importance of the natural environment to people’s lives, the Department in charge of looking after it has a tiny budget – that is hit incredibly hard with each spending review. The debate about the public forests has shown how important our natural assets are: people care passionately about their local woods and parks; and they are fundamental to the quality of our lives and our well-being. Nature is also of vast economic value - just £20m of Government money is invested in the public forest estate each year yielding economic benefits of over £400m per year.

“The case for a different approach is clear. For example, investment in job creation through environmental projects is an investment in our natural capital and in reducing our welfare bills. These are the kinds of new and innovative win-win ideas that the Government needs to grasp.

“Defra had to stomach unusually high budget cuts in 2011."

"Sadly these further cuts indicate a Government that does not understand the value of nature and its importance to our future prosperity.” Stephanie Hilborne

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, has also done work showing the value of nature locally, such as with their report on the 'Economic Evaluation of Moseley Bog & Joy's Wood Nature Reserve'.

Their Chief Executive, Neil Wyatt, said:

"We are fortunate that some of our local politicians now understand that you can put a value on the services to human wellbeing that greenspaces can provide. This message needs to be fed back to central government so that more places can benefit from projects such as the ones in the Nature Improvement Area." 

Notes for editors

The Wildlife Trust commissioned an economic evaluation of the benefits arising from the works supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, Advantage West Midlands and other funders. The report, prepared by Oliver Hölzinger, an Environmental Economist with the Consultancy for Environmental Economics & Policy, concludes the net benefit from the works will be of the order of £1.4 million.

The Birmingham and Black Country Nature Improvement Area is one of the first twelve Nature Improvement Areas in England. The vision of the Partnership is to achieve long-term environmental gains for the wildlife and people of Birmingham & the Black Country by delivering targeted, on the ground, biodiversity projects at a landscape scale.