Environment Secretary signals new approach to environment policy from Kew Gardens

At Kew Gardens today, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman signalled a new approach to environment policy, calling for everyone, from birdwatchers to big business, to shape the government’s Natural Environment White Paper.

26 Jul 2010

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Summer Meadow at Wakehurst

Kew's meadow at Wakehurst. Ancient meadows are important ecosystems, containing up to 100 different plant species.

We want everyone to contribute their views on the natural environment - whether they’re concerned at the plight of the songbirds in their garden, the quality of air in their town, flooding problems worsened by people paving over their gardens or the fate of our wider countryside.

Caroline Spelman, Environment Secretary

The White Paper will be Defra’s first environmental White Paper in 20 years and comes at a time when honey bees are facing crisis, 97% of our flower-rich meadow has been lost since 1930 and the last 25 years has seen house sparrow numbers decline by 10 million.

The discussion document launched today will gather ideas, knowledge and expertise which will feed into the White Paper.


Launching the discussion document at Kew Gardens, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“We have the opportunity to be the generation that puts a stop to the piecemeal degradation of our natural environment. We want to see a real positive change in the future of our natural environment – one which supports a stronger economy and better quality life. This discussion document will allow everyone to shape the White Paper, in a Big Society approach to policy making so that together we can aim to halt this decline and recognise that nature is our ultimate producer and supplier.”

The economy and the natural environment have historically been pitted against each other as if they were competing choices, rather than being mutually interdependent. Reducing the deficit and ensuring the economic recovery are the government’s top priorities but greater knowledge of the value provided by natural systems and the high costs associated with their degradation means that the economy and the environment cannot be separated.

Responding to the launch of the discussion paper, Kew’s Director Professor Steve Hopper underlined Kew’s ongoing commitment to the UK’s natural environment and biodiversity. Within Kew Gardens, practices such as meadow management of Kew’s lawns and the stunning bluebell wood in the Conservation Area are prime examples. At Wakehurst Place, Kew’s focus on sustainable management of woodland and meadows is emphasised by the area’s Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

 Kew’s work in this area extends well beyond the Gardens – for example the phenomenally successful Great Plant Hunt funded by the Wellcome Trust has been used by over 60% of the primary schools in the UK. Developing skills and interest of young people is an active area of development, seeing Kew partner with leading conservation organisations such as Eden and RSPB on the Green Talent project. Other significant areas of work include Kew’s restoration ecology projects and its continuing conservation focus on the UK Overseas Territories.

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