1. Main points
Natural capital is the world's stock of natural resources. This includes air, water, minerals and all living things. These natural resources underpin our society and economy because they provide a wide range of benefits (for example, pollution removal, carbon sequestration, recreation, etc.). These benefits are often known as "ecosystem services".
The benefits derived from our natural assets can be divided into three categories:
- provisioning services that create products such as food, water, and minerals;
- regulating services such as air pollution removal and carbon sequestration; and
- cultural services such as recreational use of nature.
This publication looks at natural capital assets, including the physical and monetary flows of assets and the values of services that they provide. Considering natural resources in accounting terms helps us to think logically about how to measure aspects of the natural world and better understand their impact on people. Throughout, the benefits resulting from our natural assets are grouped by the types of services that they provide (i.e., provisioning, regulating or cultural).
Scotland's natural capital accounts have been produced by the Office for National Statistics who also produce UK natural capital accounts. Several ecosystem services are not being measured in this article, such as flood mitigation. The monetary accounts should be interpreted as a partial or minimum value of Scottish natural capital.
Overview summary statistics in this report are given for 2018 as this is the last year for which we have figures for all of the services.
- Scottish natural capital assets that we can currently value were estimated to be £206 billion in 2018. Scotland's total asset value has decreased by 4% from £213 billion in 2017.This decrease is due to a fall in the asset value of fossil fuels.
- The largest part of this asset value came from recreation, which accounted for 30% of the total Scottish assets value in 2018. This was followed by fossil fuels which accounted for 25% and carbon sequestration which accounted for 18%.
- The total value of annual monetary flows from Scottish natural capital assets in 2018 was £15.6 billion. The largest monetary annual flow was from fossil fuels (£11.6 billion), followed by recreation (£1.06 billion) and carbon sequestration (£804 million).
- The total value of annual monetary flows from Scottish natural capital assets has increased by 417% since 2015, this was largely driven by an increase in fossil fuel prices.
- However, over the longer term there is a move away from fossil fuels with fossil fuel production having declined by 62% between 1999 and 2020. Meanwhile, Scottish renewable energy generation reached 29,626 GWh in 2020, increasing by 784% from 2003, owing largely to rising wind energy provisioning.
Compared to UK
- Scottish natural capital assets accounted for 17% of the UK asset value in 2018. Scottish natural capital assets also account for the majority of the UK assets value for a number of services, including fish capture 88%, fossil fuels 86% renewable energy 58% and timber 61%.
- Annual monetary flows from Scottish natural capital assets accounts for 34% of the total monetary flow from UK natural capital assets in 2018.
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