The Fifth Natural Capital Roundtable

1st March 2022

Roundtable

Convened by NatureScot, and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the Natural Capital Roundtables bring together senior representatives from across the public sector in Scotland, with the aim to explore natural capital approaches, share best practice, and develop joint actions. The most recent Roundtable was held in late 2021 and was chaired by Francesca Osowska, CEO of NatureScot. 

The theme of this, the fifth roundtable was: A natural capital approach for a net zero, nature positive economy.

This theme was chosen to complement policy priorities for the Scottish Government, including the first report of the First Minister’s Environment Council published in November of last year which stated: 

  • Global demands on nature far exceed its supply and are causing unprecedented impacts on the climate and natural environment
  • Tackling these crises in a just way is fundamental to safeguarding Scotland’s economic prosperity and wellbeing.
  • The economy is embedded within nature and a healthy natural environment is key for broader societal wellbeing 

This last point echoes what was a key conclusion within the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity (HM Treasury 2021) which recommended that nature should be part of economic and finance decision-making alongside other capitals.  

Reflections on CoP 26

The meeting began with some reflections on CoP 26 from members. Whilst there has been much debate about whether the outcomes from the summit went far enough to address the climate emergency, it was felt nonetheless from a “natural capital “ perspective CoP26 was positive. It raised the importance of Nature-based solutions (NbS), and also repeatedly underlined the intrinsic link between the climate emergency and ecological crisis. 

The CoPs are one of the only forum in which small developing countries can address developed countries on a more equal footing, and there was some divergence at CoP 26 between the global south and north in terms of NbS. Voices from the global south focus on restoration, protection and recognised threats to their environment, whilst it was suggested those from the north could often see nature and environment more as commodities. Overall, it was felt natural capital approaches as a framing tool has the potential to bring both perspectives together.

Members at the meeting also noted the finance available globally to invest in green solutions, the high profile given to blue carbon during CoP26, and the need to reduce consumption in parallel with implementing NbS.

Meeting outcomes

In terms of outcomes, the fifth natural capital roundtable had two clear aims. Firstly, to identify actions that members can take forward to embed natural capital approaches within economic transformation. This will continue to be done in a way that builds net positive for nature into net zero emissions actions, andalso supports a Just Transition. (see Annex B Actions Update in meeting summary note below)

Secondly, a key outcome from the Roundtable was to agree a set of initial principles for natural capital accounting on public land, which has been developed by a Working Group of the Roundtable. We can confirm following the Roundtabel, that Principles on Natural Capital Accounting on Public Land have been endorsed and are now published on the Scottish Forum website (and below). The intention is that all members of the public sector roundtable will be able to look at them and apply as appropriate to their landholdings. Various actions on testing the principles and finding common ways to apply them in practice are now being taken forward by the Working Group for Natural capital accounting on public land.

Next steps

Members agreed that there was a continuing need for organisations to demonstrate visible leadership on applying a natural capital approach in order to address the climate and nature crises, recognising that the economy must operate within the bounds of nature. Whilst progress has undoubtedly been made, an important job remains to continue to raise awareness about the utility of natural capital approaches and also to advocate for their centrality in decision-making processes.

It was agreed that the Roundtable should continue, providing a forum for senior leaders to be actively engaged and facilitating organisations to work with each other to make progress

Meeting papers and presentations

Natural Capital Roundtable - December 2021 - Summary Note 

Natural Capital Roundtable - Simon Fuller slides - What does it mean for Scotland to develop an economy that operates within the limits of nature?

Natural Capital Roundtable - Simon Hodgson slides - Principles for Natural Capital Accounting on Public Land in Scotland

Principles for natural capital accounting on public land 2021

ARE - Embedding natural capital in policy - Narrative