LEAF Annual Conference 2016
Debating Natural CapitalWednesday 9th November 2016
03/11/16 Reverse order Timestamp format
Welcome to the live blog for LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming)'s Annual Conference 2016. Our theme is: Debating National Capital. Stay tuned for live updates on Wednesday 9th November.
Today's conference will address Natural Capital and the emerging opportunities and challenges for farmers in this area. We have speakers and experts joining us from Defra, Environment Agency, Green Alliance, eftec, as well as members of the LEAF team.
So what on earth is Natural Capital? It's the stock of renewable and non renewable natural resources (e.g. plats, animals, air, water, soil) that combine to provide benefits to people.
In other words.... Nature Capital is the stuff 'nature does'
Today we're exploring: Why does Natural Capital matter to farmers? What benefits does assessment offer? And what does it actually mean in practice...
Guests are taking their seats. Our good friend and supporter Tom Heap will be getting the conference underway shortly.
And we're underway...
Tom Heap says:
Natural Capital is a very persuasive idea...but how do we translate it into a format the general public will understand.
The challenge says Tom:
Some people are using Natural Capital for different things.
Tom's advice to today's speakers:
Keep it to 15 minutes...or I'll set Caroline on you!
LEAF Trustee Cedric Porter is up next reminding the room that it is LEAF's 25th Anniversary this year
Happy Birthday LEAF!
Natural Capital is all about geology, natural resources, biodiversity. It provides us with food, fibre, eco systems, wildlife, water, landscape.
Cedric says the challenges are numerous:
Those people who are willing to take those challenges and embrace them can thrive though.
Our next speaker is here by video - it's all very technical at LEAF's conferences these days,
Prof Dieter Helm (coming to us by video) says:
Natural Capital and farming are like peas in a pod
Natural Capital is everything nature gives us for free - it is the bedrock of agriculture
Prof Helm says the current status quo in farming is not sustainable
How do we apply natural capital to farming?
Have a proper asset register.
Identify in the farming sector which assets are renewables and when / where are there assets at risk of going below the sustainable thresholds.
Put all these in a balance sheet.
The capital maintenance charge - ensure these assets are maintained for the next generation.
Brexit brings with it challenges. But it also brings opportunities.
What could farming look like in 25 years: A greener and more economically efficient countryside.
Better for health, better for education, better for leisure and better for food production.
Nick Barter, Deputy Director, Natural Environment Strategy, Defra is next up (in person this time).
Natural Capital provides advantages. It encourages system thinking. It is a stock concept and encourages a long term view. And it drives better uses of resources, focusing attention when it matters most.
Natural Capital helps identify the most important problems and the optimal solutions for them.
But the key is:
Fundamentally it's about Environmental Decision Making.
Nick is talking about Defra's 25 Year Environment Plan. The Natural Capital Committee's advice to Government: Take a Natural Capital approach.
The vision of the 25 Year Environment Plan: Improve the environment within a generation.
Consistency is key to ensure businesses are using the same data and tools.
Public Engagement is key:
We need to connect people with their local environment - but we need to get them to take ownership too.
The 25 YEP is about delivering locally AND globally
What are the Natural Capital opportunities for farmers though:
It gives a systematic assurance for farmers - demonstrating food is sustainable sourced and improving industry and consumer recognition and demand for such food. It opens up new markets.
What does a Natural Capital account look like?
Chris Knight, Environmental Finance Manager, Environment Agency is our next speaker looking at some examples from the EA's Corporate Natural Capital Accounts work
18,000 hectares of the EA's land was valued for Natural Capital.
The result: £30m - £160m
Why the difference: developing skill, variables, uncertainties.
What we wanted to demonstrate is that we could get a handle on this approach. This was about spurring the debate.
Critically it's about how we explore the further opportunities. It's not just an exercise to repeat each year. The EA want the process to be more than box ticking. We want to identify where we can make the most of Natural Capital.
The Environment Agency are also looking long term
This is the start of a very long process.
Tom Heap says the value of the EA's land is the same as an average Premiership football these days.
Angela Francis, Senior Economist, Green Alliance takes the stage next:
It's nice to talk about sensible things no matter what is going on in the world elsewhere.
CAP was always going to change. It is a terrible subsidy system.
We need to do something says Angela:
What we're doing now isn't working.
Angela says any approach to Natural Capital should be farmer led:
The person delivering the service needs to lead the way.
The Natural Infrastructure Scheme (Green Alliance / National Trust) would work this way.
Angela says the Natural Infrastructure Scheme is not just about counting assets:
We're building new Natural Capital.
In England each year we spend:
£1.bn per year on water quality
£1.2bn on flooding.
NIS is a market in avoided costs.
How could NIS overcome market challenges?
- Fair contributions.
- Beyond compliance.
- Upfront payments.
- Confidence to contract.
- Wider environmental benefits.
Ian Dickie, eftec is sharing his thoughts on why Natural Capital evaluation tools and accounting methods are so vital.
Start with capital. It isn't just a financial concept. It is stuff which produces other stuff. Education for example is an example of human capital.
We don't have the same way a looking at environment benefits as we do other areas of capital. That's why Natural Capital is vital.
The key question: Are the assets I'm responsible for before being managed sustainably?
eftec's approach to Natural Capital accounting:
There are some things in the environment we can't assess financially or add a monetary value to. There is still space for this in Natural Capital accounting.
Tom's warning for speakers earlier seemed to work. We've hit the Q and A session of the morning a minute early.
Tom Heap asks our speakers: Does Brexit allow Natural Capital to be rolled out as a successor to CAP.
Yes, says Nick Barter, Defra.
We can have a much more sensible system, says Angela Francis, Green Alliance.
Does Natural Capital massively undervalue the importance of food? asks Tom.
Potentially, says Chris Knight, Environment Agency, but these are the sort of issues we need to address as part of the system.
Rural communities and rural economies are missing from Natural Capital accounting, is a claim from the floor.
Angela, Green Alliance says, areas like rural employment are very important. A living countryside is important so these should be supported as part of any model.
LEAF board member Richard Whitlock says he hates 25 year plans.
His question to Defra: will the 25YEP be broken down into in smaller increments?
Nick says, yes it will be broken down but it is important to look further ahead. It will be a flexible document as it can't be set in stone.
There is no market yet for environmental gain says LEAF demonstration farmer Duncan Farrington. How will Natural Capital benefit farmers economically?
Cedric Porter says, a lot of this money is going to have to come from the state, but can we look a bit wider at which departments support farming - e.g. health.
Cedric Porter highlights the importance of LEAF Marque as an asset system at farm level - and at commercial level too.
Today's morning was definitely not wooly.
A very thought provoking morning - and the questions and debates are still coming in. Despite rumours that lunch is ready!
Now it's time for the afternoon session.
First speaker for the afternoon is long term farm owner David Fursdon from The Crown Estate. David is going to explore if Natural Capital will really work in practice.
We need to convince people about Natural Capital. Particularly in the current political environment.
David asks: What about property rights? Who actually owns Natural Capital?
Land still needs managing. Which needs paying for. There is a fundamental underestimation of what maintaining natural capital costs.
Some potential new sources of income for farmers:
New contracts / markets.
Certification / assurance.
It's not beyond the capabilities of farmers to look at the balance sheet for Natural Capital.
But Natural Capital will require skills.
Some of the challenges:
Politics: Land Reforms and property rights.
Subjectivity of objectives and methods.
Lack of scientific consensus.
Different accounting system may be needed.
Natural Capital is pragmatic, meets a need and can work - if we work together and work quickly.
A practical look now from Charlie Russ, Chartered Surveyor, Savills.
It's absolutely critical that the value of Natural Capital is reflected in our advice to clients. There are some important steps being taken by the surveying profession.
Charlie says for many it will come down to :The balance sheet versus the P&L.
The key is generating new income for restoring Natural Capital.
Market based schemes like the Peatland Code are in their early stages.
We could be on the cusp of a new paradigm in how we value land.
10 mins allowed for Q&A. Currently 15mins plus and counting. Natural Capital is a hot topic and our excellent speakers have got everyone talking.
It's now over to the LEAF team to provide some updates: first up LEAF Chief Caroline Drummond
Some of the LEAF team were not even born when we launched 25 years ago!
Even 25 years ago we could predict how important the environment was going to be to farming; we could not predict the impact of certain political decisions and we could not predict the technology available to the food chain
Everyone in this room has helped us make our journey. The journey has been critical. We've learned from mistakes (and boy have we made some!!)
How do we embrace some of the health challenges going forward?
Caroline outlines LEAF's strategic ambition: To be the go to organisation for the delivery of more sustainable food and farming
We've stayed true to our values.
Quentin Clark, LEAF Director Business Collaboration outlines strategy for LEAF Marque:
LEAF is not just fresh produce. There are so many other products being produced or grown under LEAF Marque including live stock and sugar beet. We want more product to be sold as LEAF Marque though to create a point of difference - in retail and food service.
Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager is next up.
I'm delighted to announce that following the success of the inaugural IFM Conference and LEAF Marque Summits this year, that we will be holding both again in 2017.
Partnerships are critical.
Kathryn outlines ways LEAF are driving sustainability and developing the maket:
- Increasing the robustness of LEAF Marque
- Building market demand
- Developing the outreach
- Building public recognition
Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday manager shares her favourite visitor comment from this year :
Amazing day. Lots to do and learn about. I totally underestimated what farmers do.
LEAF's Public Engagement conference will also return for 2017
The LEAF team are asked for their biggest achievement of the past 25 years: Just one? says Caroline!
Kathryn outlines how LEAF will be approaching Natural Capital and says:
Natural Capital may be a new approach but the concepts of valuing what farmers do is not new - take the LEAF Audit for instance. We're not starting completely from scratch.
Rt Hon. Michael Jack CBE, LEAF Trustee sums up the day:
We've talked Natural Capital, we've thought about Natural Capital and we'll still leave thinking about it!
Rt Hon. Michael Jack says:
Natural Capital would add an extra layer to the principles of LEAF's IFM. One of LEAF's focus over the past 25 years has been on managing finite resources.
We'd like to say a massive thank you to all our speakers today.