The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a new discussion paper on ‘Natural Capital and Environmental Net Gain’. Natural capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things. Therefore, this has the potential to impact society, economies, air quality, the use of the natural environment, and natural resources.

The discussion paper outlines that ‘infrastructure developers should consider the impact of infrastructure development on natural capital assets and take the opportunities to contribute to the environment and biodiversity as part of development. Infrastructure projects should target environmental net gain, ensuring that infrastructure developers leave the environment in a measurably better state than they found it in.’

Environmental net gain can be defined as a mechanism for improving the condition of an ecosystem or a natural asset in the context of development. Assessing the baseline environment, establishing what is there, and then defining a specific set of guidelines for that development site, area, or project within the local or regional context of the area is important. The NIC recommends that infrastructure developers should avoid impacts as far as possible, should minimise unavoidable impacts, and as a last resort, compensate for impacts.

The NIC outlines that the ‘UK and global trends show that natural capital has declined in recent decades. The UK alone has seen a 13 percent decline in average species abundance since 1970, and 15 percent of species assessed are threatened with extinction’. The discussion paper sets out the NIC’s position and plans to develop a set of natural capital principles for national infrastructure to help developers establish how projects can deliver an environmental net gain.

For site-specific assessment and solutions please contact ACD for further information.


To find out more, download the report below.

Updated Natural Capital Paper Feb 2021