By: Kathy Macpherson, VP Research & Policy
I’m very excited about our upcoming report on valuing the natural capital of the Greenbelt. It helps make it clear that nearly 9 million people are taking advantage of having the world’s largest Greenbelt on their doorsteps, as well as benefiting in many other ways from its natural assets.
During the Coordinated Planning Review, the Province heard from residents, farmers, environmental groups, and other stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Greenbelt. Our report will show how much value we get from the Greenbelt’s natural assets, reinforcing how important it is to not only permanently protect them, but also invest in enhancing them to provide more benefits to more people.
Natural capital assessments involve evaluating the benefits contributed to a particular area by its “stock” of natural of natural assets (e.g. water, forests and soil) and expressing these benefits in dollar terms.
There have been significant advances in the field of natural capital valuation in recent years and new data is available, so we thought it was time to update our 2008 study. It was ground breaking in this part of the world at the time, and used the best methodology and data available.
Our new study focuses on the direct benefits nature provides to residents of the Greater Golden Horseshoe. By attaching a monetary value to what nature provides for us, we hope to make it easier for our natural assets to become more of a consideration in decision making. Too often, we take our natural assets for granted because the benefits they provide are “free”. This study tries to undo that pattern and instead ensure that decisions about the use of our natural assets are made considering the value of the services they provide.
Download our Natural Capital 101 primer
Valuing natural assets can help remind us that while there are economic gains from new development, if we lose important assets in the process, communities end up poorer as a result.
This information can also encourage investment in our natural resources which in turn provides further benefits to us. For example, a wetland conservation project could support biodiversity, improve local water quality, increase flood protection and provide additional recreational opportunities that generate economic activity – great value for your tax dollars.
It’s important to keep in mind that natural capital studies do not claim to evaluate every aspect of nature and the benefits people derive from it. We also all have personal and spiritual connections to nature that run much deeper than monetary values. Natural capital valuation is another tool in the box to support effective, evidence-based decision making and not the final say on what nature is worth.
I look forward to sharing the report later this month!
VP Research & Policy