Reversing the long term decline of the natural environment is a complex challenge. We are generating new thinking and building powerful new alliances to support political leadership that will restore Britain’s natural environment for the future.
Natural investmentFutureproofing food production in the UK
Food production and agriculture are vital to the UK economy. Food prices have fallen by nearly a quarter since 1980, to the expense of the people and natural systems that produce it.
This period has also seen prolonged and severe declines in the environmental health of farmland, characterised by soil degradation and erosion, and the chronic decline of important species.
Unsustainable farming practices have created unacknowledged costs and risks for food businesses.
Our report, Natural investment: futureproofing food production in the UK, proposes a new model for policy makers, based on the concept of environmental efficiency, which enables food businesses to maintain the natural assets they depend on, and bolster the long term economic resilience of the UK food and farming sector.
New markets for land and natureIn partnership with the National Trust
Agriculture is under increasing pressure to maximise production, whilst reducing its environmental impact and eliminating dependence on public subsidy. Many farming businesses are operating at the limit of their profitability, often to the detriment of soil health, water quality and biodiversity. Farmers are in a unique position to restore and protect the natural environment, but there is no commercial basis for the provision of natural services from farmland.
Flooding is a big problem in the UK and one that is getting worse with climate change. In November 2016, we revealed that England's current approach to flood risk is contradictory:
• nearly four times as much money spent on land management that ignores or even increases flood risk, than on land management that helps to prevent flooding; and • twice as much money spent on dealing with the after effects of a flood than on hard flood defences
This funding is skewed towards short-term reactive responses that ignore the central role of land management in building flood resilience. Our report Smarter flood risk management in England: investing in resilient catchments makes three recommendations that would lead to a greater level of resilience for either the same or lower cost than current approaches, including to establish a dedicated fund for natural flood management.
This project was supported by the John Ellerman Foundation.
The Great AccelerationHow should the UK respond to the decline of natural systems?
Our journal Inside Track invited Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre to describe the findings of his research into the phenomenon known as the Great Acceleration: the fast increasing impact of human activities on natural systems since 1950. It also featured articles by a former senior civil servant, the National Trust and Nestlé on how government, the public and business in the UK should respond. Sue Armstrong Brown also set out the immediate plans for Green Alliance's new Natural Environment theme.