Natural England - Secure environmental future

Secure environmental future

The natural environment in 2060

Never before has the environment been under so much pressure (driven by rising populations) and never before has it been subject to so much change (driven by climate) as it is today. The natural environment is not a luxury for society – it critically underpins and delivers a wide range of goods and services, from food and water, to flood defence and carbon storage. Significant changes are happening now to these services, and more are on the way.

Vertical garden, Madrid
Making the most of space – an alternative to the traditional garden or wall. Vertical garden in Madrid. © David Pirnie

What does that mean for decisions that we make today?

There are three elements to making the right choices for the future of the natural environment;

  • understanding how nature supports our everyday lives
  • identifying future trends – both risks and opportunities and
  • having a goal for what we want to achieve

How nature supports our everyday lives

The natural environment is essential for the well being of people, so decisions made today must safeguard our natural resources.

Our report No charge? Valuing the natural environmentexternal link sets out the contribution that nature makes to our economy (such as clean water, carbon storage) to ensure that its value is recognised.

Read Helen Phillips' speechexternal link from the launch on 14 October 2009. (Helen Phillips was Natural England Chief Executive of at the time of the launch)

Identifying future trends

Whilst we cannot predict what the future holds, we can look at long term trends and consider what these might mean for us and the environment we live in, in 2060. Within Natural England we have:

  1. Undertaken a rigorous analysis of data on future trends to identify key factors that will impact on the natural environment. [NECR030 - Global drivers of change to 2060external link]

  2. Developed four scenarios of how the world might look in 2060 and carried out an initial assessment of the long term risks and opportunities that could influence the natural environment by 2060. [NERR031 - England’s natural environment in 2060 - issues, implications and scenariosexternal link with associated research note RIN031.]
    The report explores how our behaviours and factors such as technological progress may play out and what that might mean for the natural environment.

  3. Looked at other related scenarios and compared these with ours. [NECR031 - Scenarios compendiumexternal link]

We have used these scenarios to inform the uplands vision, see below.

Defra Land Use Project: Demonstrator Case Studies Workstream

The study, to demonstrate multi-functional use of land, was developed through discussions between Defra, Natural England, Foresight, Department of Communities and Local Government. A series of seven case studies were selected from over 50 land use initiatives and used to produce an evidence base. This evidence base was then used to inform the Foresight Land Use Futures project due to be launched in February 2010.

Two outputs from the study are the Final Report and Executive Summaryexternal link, funded by Defra Land Use Team.


Strangford Lough tidal turbine
Strangford Lough tidal turbine

Pathways to our goal

We are also keen to have some tangible idea of what a healthy environment should look like, something to aim for and inspire action – by people, government at national, regional and local level, public bodies and the private sector. Natural England is working, with others, towards developing a pathway to how the natural environment of England should look in 50 years time and how it will contribute to the needs of society. We want this to be more than a Natural England view, we want others to contribute and with us build this future. We will do this by working with others to develop the pathway and a plan (strategy) to achieve it. Our ambition is that it will inspire and motivate decision-makers across society to take decisions in ways which will secure a healthy future for the natural environment.

Upland futures

Aerial view over Ullswater
Ullswater catchment – providing a range of ecosystem services © English Heritage/ NMR/ Aerofilms Collection

The initial element in developing our vision for the natural environment to 2060, from mountain top to sea bed, began with the launch of Vital Uplands: Natural England’s vision for the upland environment in 2060 (subsequently withdrawn) on 12 November 2009.

This built on the multiple benefits that the natural environment provides, advocated in our 'No charge?' report above.

The specific contribution of the uplands is detailed in:

  • Mapping Values: the vital nature of our uplandsexternal link – atlas linking environment and people which describes, through maps, many of the benefits people derive from the upland environment and how we might secure these for the future.

  • Economic Valuation of Upland Ecosystem Servicesexternal link - report explaining a method for exploring the economic implications of land use change in the uplands at a variety of scales. Contains 6 upland case studies.

  • Upland Ecosystem Servicesexternal link - report assessing the links between environment, land management and service delivery which explain our understanding of the evidence behind 4 key upland ecosystem services.

Delivering nature’s servicesexternal link is a report on a pioneering demonstration project which will show how the upland vision could work in practice in 3 different upland areas.

Contact us

If you have any comments please email the pathways project.