Policy chiefs learn about new guidance for large-scale public investment decisions

Delegates from the HM treasury event

R-L: Ian Bateman (SWEEP), Diana Tingley (SWEEP), Colin Smith (Defra), Mario Deconti (MHCLG), Emily McKenzie (Defra), Joseph Lowe (H.M Treasury), John Curnow (Defra), Ben Groom (LSE), Nick Hanley (University of Glasgow), Catherine Connolly (economicsense), Alastair Johnson (Defra), Brett Day (SWEEP), Nathan Owen (SWEEP), Dawn Scott (SWEEP).

Experts from the University of Exeter have been sharing with policy chiefs the research behind new public spending guidelines which determine billions of pounds of Government investments every year.

Academics from SWEEP and the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) at the University’s Business School worked directly with HM Treasury, Defra and the Natural Capital Committee on the new version of the ‘Green Book’, the official guidelines for the appraisal of public spending projects across Government.

Now, senior economists and advisors from more than a dozen government departments, together with a variety of government agencies and policy and implementation bodies, have gathered in London to hear more about these new guidelines and their practical implementation. The event, which took place at the Royal Society was chaired by Professor Ian Bateman, Director of SWEEP who, together with Professor Brett Day, also of SWEEP, worked on the Green Book.

The Green Book has been informing government investments for more than forty years and provides guidelines for billions of pounds of public investment in everything from building schools and roads, to protecting the natural environment. The document is also regarded as a template for good decision making internationally. It was updated last year for the first time since 2003.

“The Green Book’s guidance supports the assessment of large sums of government expenditure, so inevitably any changes have a huge impact,” said Professor Bateman.

“The latest guidance was particularly innovative regarding its treatment of the environmental benefits and costs of public spending. This included incorporation of our work on the concept of ‘natural capital’ – which recognises the environment, as a huge source of both economic value and wider wellbeing. It emphasises the importance of taking into consideration the impact of public spending on things like greenhouse gases, wild species, noise pollution and recreation.

“We were delighted to meet with advisors from a wide range of government departments to help them to implement the new guidance.”

The London conference was organised in collaboration between HM Treasury, Defra, LEEP and SWEEP, with support from the Natural Environment Research Council and the University of Exeter Business School.

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