Environment and economy: Fit for the Future?

Environment & EconomyThe 2009 Observatory conference, West Midlands: Fit for the Future?, provided a forum for debate on economic recovery in the West Midlands.

One element of the debate concentrated on how to link the environment and economy better, based on chapters 4 and 9 of the Fit for the Future? book.

Delegates at the Environment and Economy workshop discussed Green Infrastructure, leadership and the value of the environment, aiming to understand how to embed the environment into regional policy making more effectively. Discussions ranged from the best way of doing this to overcoming what’s currently standing in the way.

Bill Heslegrave (Forestry Commission) presented on Green Infrastructure, emphasising its economic benefits. This picked up on the key points raised by Bill in his 11th chapter (PDF, 928kb) of the book.

Discussions afterwards identified the following priorities for this area:

  • Raise awareness of the benefits of Green Infrastructure, and share good practice.
  • Identify opportunities to link green infrastructure to other policy areas, and solve problems.

Dr Simon Slater (Sustainability West Midlands) presented on Leadership – mind the gap?: the gaps that exist in the region and how to improve leadership on sustainability issues.

Discussions focused on the following priorities:

  • One voice for the environment sector, and tailoring the message to the audience.
  • More joint working – the forthcoming Strategy for the West Midlands should help this.
  • Find smarter ways of selling the environment – we could learn from the cultural sector.

John Walker (West Midlands Regional Observatory) presented on What price the environment?

Discussions stemmed around the following points:

  • The challenges of putting a price on the environment and who “owns” it?
  • Developing a register of assets that could act as a balance sheet to review regularly. Should we develop an environmental “doomsday” book to list what actually exists?
  • Scenarios of how people would like to live in the future could help to change behaviour.  A low carbon vision for the West Midlands in 2020 has started to do this.

Delegates debated whether sustainable development policy was sustainable, if based on technology, or just responding to increased consumer demand.  The need to compare the West Midlands to more realistic competitors across Europe, rather than just focusing on England was also covered.

These questions were put forward to the conference question panel:

  • How do we ‘sell’ the environment and its benefits better?
  • Can we identify a more future-proofed set of benchmarks? Look ‘further afield’ not worry about other English regions.
  • How do the panel see green infrastructure being embedded in the new regional strategy?
  • How sustainable is sustainable development?  What can we do to encourage more sustainable behaviour?
  • Would working with the general public to produce a vision of a low carbon, environmentally friendly lifestyle help develop better policies?

We welcome your thoughts on any of these issues. Add your comments below.

5 Responses

  1. Delegates also discussed DEFRA’s guide on valuing ecosystem services at the workshop, which is available here:

    Click to access eco-valuing.pdf

  2. Amanda Pearce from Natural England also highlighted the document “No Charge? Valuing the Natural Environment” published recently.

    “No Charge? Valuing the Natural Environment”, pulls together leading research to show that the economic value of nature now runs to billions of pounds in the UK alone and that there are major savings to be made through looking after it.

    This document is available through Natural England’s website: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/about_us/news/2009/151009.aspx

  3. Feedback from Extelliegence’s Kate Cooper on the Birmingham Post site:


  4. My last three Birmingham Post blogs have been about alternative, low-cost convivial ways of regeneration, including food supply to us. See: http://blogs.birminghampost.net/lifestyle/kate_cooper/

    I recently drove past Longbridge, with its desolate areas not-being developed by St Modwens (see their 9/11 press release re the MG Rover Report; “no, miss, honest, miss, it wasn’t us, miss” – http://www.stmodwen.co.uk/ ) . . .

    What’s needed is brave decision-making by our politicians. How can we “empower” them (how I loathe that word!) to be brave?

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