Edinburgh sets natural capital example

17th November 2014

The City of Edinburgh Council has become the first local authority to join a ground-breaking initiative to protect Scotland’s natural life support systems, the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital.

The Scottish Forum brings together key players from the public, private and voluntary sectors to protect and enhance Scotland’s natural capital and was launched last year in Edinburgh at the World Forum on Natural Capital with the support of the First Minister.

Last year, City of Edinburgh Council commissioned the ‘Trees in the City’ survey to get a greater understanding of the important value woodlands have in Edinburgh. It found the carbon locked up by woodlands in Edinburgh every year was equivalent to the emissions from 135 million kilometres of commuting in a car.  In addition, the figures suggest that by 2050, the value of carbon capture by trees across the city would equate to £35 million.

Natural capital stocks include forests, rivers, land, minerals, seas and other natural assets on which all human life depends. Collectively, they supply us with essential goods (such as food, medicine, fuel and building materials) and services (such as pollination, climate regulation and flood prevention).

The City of Edinburgh Council has been undertaking measures to enhance the natural capital of the area for a while. 

Another exciting initiative already being undertaken in Edinburgh is the Urban Pollinator Project, a collaboration between the City of Edinburgh Council and the University of Edinburgh. By converting patches of grassland to wildflower meadows, the project aims to boost numbers of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects within the city. It is hoped that this will demonstrate how pollinator populations can thrive in urban environments.

There can also be financial benefits of applying ‘natural capital thinking’ in the management of the city’s parks and green spaces. For example, the Council has identified that by reducing the amount of grass that needs cutting and cutting some patches less often, it can save £200,000 a year while also benefiting wildlife.

Co-Chair of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital and Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Jonny Hughes, said: “By joining the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the City of Edinburgh Council is sending a message to other councils across the country that incorporating the value of our natural environment into decision making is not only good for wildlife but also makes financial sense.

“The City of Edinburgh Council could become an exemplar for similar public institutions to follow. If these benefits could be realised on a national scale, this would be a very significant step forward in the battle to protect Scotland’s precious natural environment.”

Environment Convenor, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “As a council we recognise the value of Edinburgh’s natural environment to its residents and the wider world. Recent work by our Parks and Greenspace Service, for example, has demonstrated the value of our urban trees in limiting the worst effects of climate change as well as the value of our parks to the economy and in keeping people healthy.

“By joining the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital we aim to use our experience to influence national decisions impacting the environment, as well as nurturing our own natural assets, wildlife and biodiversity and conserving these valuable resources for generations to come.”

The Scottish Forum on Natural Capital brings together public, private and voluntary sector organisations to protect and rebuild Scotland’s natural capital. To date, there are over 50 member organisations including Alliance Trust, BT Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, SSE, SEPA, John Muir Trust, Buccleuch, The Crown Estate, James Hutton Institute, Woodland Trust Scotland, Balfour Beatty and the Scottish Government.

Click here to see the full list of members of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital

Click here to read a selection of quotes from members explaining why they have joined the Scottish Forum.