Blog: The CLA's vision for the future of Natural Capital

Throughout January, the CLA will be looking back at what we learned throughout the 2016 Rural Business 2030 programme which culminated in last month's Rural Business Conference.

As part of this programme the CLA held a number of seminars, including one on natural capital, which took place in September 2016. The seminar brought together policymakers, landowners and academics to discuss the future of natural capital and the opportunities for investment in it. CLA Senior Land Use Policy Adviser Jonathan Baker looks back at the seminar and reports on the discussion that took place on investment in natural capital.


Last year the CLA, working with its members and an invited group of experts, developed a vision and set of recommendations on how to increase investment in our natural capital. This work, launched at the CLA’s inaugural rural business conference, will shape the priorities of the CLA over the coming years.

Looking ahead in 2017 the CLA will be working to achieve:

A UK-wide approach to enhancing natural capital

We will be putting the case to Government to create a world-leading UK Food, Farming and Environmental policy that, as well as supporting resilient farming, commits to enhancing natural capital by 2030.

To deliver this there needs to be a formal, ministerial level grouping from across the Devolved Administrations tasked with agreeing on the overarching priorities of the policy. Individual administrations will be able to design detailed policies as best suits their situation. This would respect the Devolution Settlement while providing multi-annual funding to tackle problems in the rural economy – something that is not possible through the Barnett Formula.

Landowners taking ownership of environmental schemes

Current environment schemes are devised nationally and implemented with limited flexibility. The evidence shows that better environmental outcomes can be achieved if land managers have a greater say in design and greater incentives to deliver.

We want Government to consider administering some parts of future environmental schemes via reverse auctions where land managers create schemes that work for their land. Equally we believe that agreements for any future scheme should results-based where feasible, meaning payment is linked to the scale of environmental delivery.

New ways for public and private investment to work together

Although public support should remain the foundation for improving the environment, Government can support private contributions by creating institutions that can combine funding sources to deliver better outcomes and better value for public money. The CLA will be advocating for Governments to achieve this through Area Statements in Wales and via proposed Local Environment Forums in England (see main report for more details).

More investment in natural capital

Our recent survey showed that in the last five years 52% of CLA members have invested resources, management time, capital and expertise to improve the environment. The main motivation for this investment has been their sense of stewardship and desire to look after their local environment.

Looking forward a sense of stewardship, although important, is not enough. Just 40% of CLA members say that, with the available investment options, they will look to invest in the environment in the future. We need to improve the business case for natural capital so that investing in the environment is a profitable part of running a rural business.

The CLA’s vision for natural capital

Our hope is that by taking these steps in 2017 we will be able to achieve the CLA’s vision for investment in natural capital by 2030, which is that:

  • The role of land based rural businesses in maintaining and enhancing natural capital is recognised and rewarded by society, business and government
  • Investing in natural capital enhancements is a profitable part of managing a rural business
  • Society benefits because water quality is high and not deteriorating; flood risks are reduced whilst the impacts of droughts are mitigated, biodiversity in the farmed and non-farmed environment has substantially improved, and the UK’s land is a carbon sink
  • Landowners and rural businesses have access to a range of tools that support them investing in natural capital assets

2017 promises to be a seminal year for the British countryside and the CLA will be at the forefront of the coming debates.

For more information on the CLA's Rural Business 2030 seminar on natural capital click here or on the icon below to read the resulting seminar paper.