A new report demonstrating that investment in the environment offers excellent value for money has been published today by Natural England.
The report, ‘Microeconomic Evidence for the Benefits of Investment in the Environment’ (MEBIE 2), assesses the evidence across a wide range of themes, including economic growth, health, social cohesion and resilience to climate change. Presented in an easily accessible format, the evidence meets national Government standards for decision making and will be of particular interest to anyone involved in land use planning or management.
The growing evidence base demonstrates:
- The natural environment provides physical health benefits improving air quality, noise and temperature regulation, and reduces the impacts of extreme weather.
- Air pollution is estimated to kill over twice as many people in the UK than drug and alcohol misuse. Trees, greenery and green roofs and walls all reduce air pollution. A hectare of green roof can remove 85kg of air pollutants in a year.
- Pleasant natural environments reduce stress and restore people’s ability to concentrate, as well as providing attractive locations for walking and cycling. Improved physical and mental health outcomes increase productivity, and reduce healthcare costs.
- Economic and social costs of mental illness in England were estimated at £105.2 billion in 2009/10 including £21.3 billion cost of health care and £30.3 billion in lost output. British residents who moved to greener areas were shown to have sustained mental health improvements.
- Investment in nature can, in some contexts, offer better value for public investment than ‘hard engineering’ by providing services such as water filtration, water quality and flood defences.
- The average annual cost of flooding in England is £1 billion, and 5.2m houses are at risk of flooding. It is estimated that the flood defence benefits of the managed realignment scheme at Alkborough Flats to the South of the Humber Estuary is worth £12.26m over 100 years.
- The restoration of some natural habitats, such as forests, peat bogs and saltmarsh can remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
- 595 million tonnes of CO2 is stored in UK forests, and net uptake per year is between 9 and 15 million tonnes.
- It can help to make both the cities and the countryside more resilient to climate change. Trees and vegetation provide shelter from cold winds (reducing heating requirements), cool the air in summer through shade and transpiration and reduce the risk of local flooding by helping water infiltrate the ground.
- A single large tree can transpire 450 litres of water a day, making urban trees an effective way of reducing temperatures. Street trees and green roofs have been shown to reduce runoff by around 50% in the immediate area and forested catchments have fewer extreme flood events.
- Visits to the natural environment are important to people’s leisure time and to the tourist and recreation economy.
- The Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey demonstrates that in 2012-13, 2.85 billion visits were made to the natural environment with expenditure totalling from £17.6 – £24.5 billion.
- Investment in the environment improves the quality or our living and working spaces – attracting business and investment and contributing to the local economy.
- A survey of real estate developers and consultants found that 95% of respondents believe open space adds value to commercial property and would be willing to pay at least 3% more to be in close proximity to open space.
Andrew Wood, Natural England’s Executive Director for Science, Evidence, said: “The interdependence between the natural environment and the economy is often taken for granted or not fully understood. The MEBIE 2 report sheds light on this relationship and I hope will encourage local decision makers to take full advantage of what this connection can offer for people and wildlife alike.”
NERR057 – Microeconomic Evidence for the Benefits of Investment in the Environment 2 (MEBIE2) can be found on Natural England’s publications catalogue.