Wheal Coates abandoned tin mine on Cornish coast at sunset. St Agnes. Getty

Natural capital comprises the elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value to people (1). Natural assets lie above and below ground – comprising ecosystems, landscapes, soils, minerals, heat, winds and tides and are intimately entwined with our cultural heritage.

South West England has been endowed with the finest stocks of onshore and offshore natural capital in the UK which have been utilised to benefit of the economy and sustain life for many generations (2).

Natural assets like the wind, critical minerals and heat lie at the heart of the journey to net zero and the Green Industrial Revolution policies – which include offshore wind, the shift to zero emission vehicles, greener buildings, sequestrating carbon and protecting our natural environment (3). The challenges of national and regional competitiveness and resilience, decarbonisation and the climate emergency compel us to take a strategic, inclusive view of our natural assets with renewed focus on their potential contribution to addressing clean growth, sustainable development and well-being challenges.

The South West Natural Powerhouse

At present, governance and management of our natural assets is fragmented and uncoordinated, whilst knowledge is dispersed and inconsistent. Acting in combination, these factors conspire to frustrate access and full delivery of social, economic and environmental value to the South West (4).

The answer is to take a role in stewardship of the natural resources – leading the national and international agenda. Inefficiencies and barriers to accessing the benefits of natural assets should be addressed by a new approach to resource governance - progressive strategy; the breaking down of traditional sector and responsibility boundaries, to share learning, processes and practice through partnerships.

The South West Natural Powerhouse is an independent consortium formed from industry, academia and local government who work in collaboration to facilitate net zero in the South West. The consortium fosters responsible stewardship of our natural resources, whilst promoting sustainable and accelerated development of the blue and green economies.

The South West Natural Powerhouse is based on a shared, fresh, cohesive vision which puts the value of its remarkable natural resources at its heart. Clean growth will be achieved through creating supportive conditions that promote sustainable development and embrace the circular economy through;

The South West Natural Powerhouse
Coast square
Sustainability Hub - green wall for research
Great Staple tor Dartmoor Devon UK
Dartmoor forest

For more information about The Natural Powerhouse, please contact Dr Ian Selby

(1) According to the Natural Capital Committee, natural capital includes ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, the air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions. Natural capital is a broad term that includes many different components of the living and non-living natural environment, as well as the processes and functions that link these components and sustain life. When we talk about natural capital, we talk in terms of assets. Any capital asset has the capacity to produce various goods and services. Natural capital is simply those assets provided by nature with the capacity to generate goods and services.

(2) Onshore and offshore, South West England have arguably been endowed with the finest stocks of natural capital in the UK. CIOS’s rich natural assets lie in the atmosphere, on the ground and below the surface of the land and comprise ecosystems of flora and fauna, as well as abiotic resources consisting of the landscape, seas, rocks, minerals, soils and the climate. Through history, people have recognised this unique blend of natural assets and their utilisation has been at the heart of the identity of the South West as a place for thousands of years.

(3) The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. November 2020

(4) Policy, regulation, ownership, and diverse business interests means governance and development of natural assets is fragmented and often uncoordinated, leading to conflicting priorities and a restriction on our ambition to deliver their full value. Furthermore, inconsistent knowledge and limited understanding at times result in further inefficiency. The answer is to embrace regional stewardship of the assets – a strategic approach which offers the potential for the South West to pilot and lead the national and international agenda.