University of Exeter research to inform billions of pounds of future government spending

University of Exeter research to inform billions of pounds of future government spending

University of Exeter expertise will be used by the Government to inform all major new public spending projects after academics helped to create new decision-making guidelines for politicians and civil servants.

Experts from the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) based at the University of Exeter Business School, have been working with the Treasury, Defra, the Department for Transport and the Natural Capital Committee to create updated rules on how to evaluate how money is spent on new policies, projects and programmes.

This expertise is found in new version of the Government’s ‘Green Book’, published this month. The document contains the guidelines for billions of pounds of public investment in everything from building schools and roads, to protecting the natural environment. Launched by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, the document is also regarded as a template for good decision making internationally.

Professors Ian Bateman and Brett Day from LEEP have led the work for H.M. Treasury which has included a number of reports and numerous meetings with senior Treasury officials.

Professor Bateman said: “The advice that we gave, which I am delighted H. M. Treasury has accepted, changes Government spending guidance in some key ways. For one thing, it emphasises the importance of considering the environmental impacts of public spending on water quality, greenhouse gases, noise pollution and recreation. In particular, the Treasury has explicitly adopted our approach to bringing effects on wild species into decision-making.

“More fundamentally, it is a clear shift towards considering the long-term benefits of safeguarding the environmental underpinnings of the economy. It’s like thinking about savings in a bank; if each year we take out more than the interest we make, eventually our income will fall. The same thing applies to the environment; extracting too much, too fast, will cause collapse. But if we ensure our stock of 'natural capital' is healthy, then the planet will sustain us forever. The new Green Book incorporates our advice to ensure those natural capital stocks, and any cumulative effects on them, are considered when making decisions on future government projects and programmes.”

Other contributions from the LEEP team include the Outdoor Recreation Valuation Tool (ORVal), a Defra-funded project led by Professor Day and supported by Dr Greg Smith, also of LEEP. ORVal is an online map that allows people in England to view their local coastal and green spaces such as beaches, parks and nature reserves and recreational opportunities. Use of ORVal has been recommended for its ability to deal with the complex issue of attributing values based on habitat or location.

The Green Book also recommends the use of the Valuation Transfer Tool, developed with environmental consultants, eftec, and Professor Bateman for Defra and a system for the valuation of noise developed by Professor Day and Professor Bateman. It also cites studies for the Forestry Commission looking at best practice in valuing environmental costs and benefits led by LEEP academics Dr Amy Binner, Dr Smith, Professor Bateman, Professor Day, Matthew Agarwala and Amii Harwood.

This follows on after the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of the Government’s recent 25 Year Environment Plan which also incorporated very substantial advice from LEEP and other University of Exeter academics.



Date: 13 March 2018

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