The UK city has pioneered a natural capital planning tool that takes account of 10 ecosystem services. Angeli Mehta reports

Nick Grayson, Birmingham’s climate change and sustainability manager, is trying to get natural capital at the centre of the city’s decision making. And he is optimistic he’s getting close.

The council and university have been partners in the UK’s Liveable Cities project. Its goal is to understand how cities can be sustainable and resilient. It brought together a wide range of disciplines, from engineering and ecosystems to transport and psychology.

“The pressure on UK cities for house-building, infrastructure and growth is squeezing out land,” says Grayson. “So the very point of contact between people and nature is being undervalued, which is compromising our future.”

You don’t have a city that works across five capitals. It works on just one or two

“Cities as a unit should work well because you have all the players and all the infrastructure ... but not a governance arrangement that works to meet 21st century challenges – but that is fixable.” 

Grayson argues that city governance needs to work across not just natural capital, but four others too: social, human, financial and manufactured. At the moment, each sector operates in isolation: there’s no oversight as to their interdependencies.   

“You don’t have a city that works across five capitals. It works on just...

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Birmingham  Liveable Cities  natural capital 

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