The ONS’ figures were published today and highlight the growing value of the country’s natural capital between 1997 and 2017.
Natural capital is a measure of the natural world and its impact upon people, which can then be accounted for with a monetary value of the benefits they bring. For example, a tree has a timber value determined by the market (provisionary service), it also sucks carbon out of the atmosphere and helps reduce flood risk (regulatory service) and it also provides other benefits such as an amenity value to people such as walkers (cultural service).
According to the ONS’s figures, the value of carbon sequestration has generally increased annually, valued at £1bn in 2017. But on average the benefits of removing one tonne of air pollutant were considered to be about 22 times higher than carbon sequestration due to pollutants, predominantly PM2.5, having larger impacts on human health, according to the ONS.
In total “1,238 years of life” were saved through vegetation removing air pollution in 2017, it said.
Elsewhere, the ONS has pointed to the value of the “cooling shade of trees and water”, which it says saved the UK £248m by maintaining productivity and lowering air conditioning costs on hot days in 2017.
The ONS report is more confident in its provisionary values for assets such as renewable energy generation, which grew from 5% of all electricity generation in 2008 to 35% in 2018 and coal production value which was at an all-time low, 16 times less in 2018 than in 1998.
The ONS report has also highlighted how UK timber production has increased 51% between 2000 and 2018, mainly in Scotland.
The ONS said several ecosystem services are not being measured, so its accounts should be interpreted as a “partial or minimum value of UK natural capital”.
To view the ONS’ statistical bulletin in full click here