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Climate Change Science Policy

Following external policy drivers to help to guide relevant Kew science programmes to address climate change.

Publication on Kew's activities relevant to climate change

This project comprises a suite of initiatives to assess the role of Kew and its partners in meeting the scientific needs of international and national climate change policy. Main activities include: the running of internal and external workshops; following climate change policy under the climate change convention (UNFCCC) and biodiversity convention (CBD); and discussions/collaborations with partners (e.g. government, botanical institutions).

In 2006, members of the team participated in the Gran Canaria Group meeting on “Climate Change and Plant Conservation”, hosted by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and the Jardin Botanico Canario Viera Y Clavijo. The meeting developed and agreed the “Gran Canaria Declaration II” – a statement of intent on the role of botanic gardens in tackling the challenge of climate change, through linking to activities in botanic gardens to implement the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC).

In 2007, members of the team were part of the steering committee that coordinated a joint 3-day workshop with the Royal Society, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Meteorological Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change. The resulting report Biodiversityclimate interactions: adaptation, mitigation and human livelihoods (Royal Society, 2007), identifies opportunities for maximising science and policy synergies in response to climate change.

In 2008, Kew was contracted by Defra to provide an overview of the direct impact of different forest management models on carbon and non-carbon environmental ecosystem services, with a primary focus of tropical forest types, for inclusion in the Eliasch Review (Eliasch, J. (2008). Climate Change: Financing Global Forests). The team’s contribution, drawing on experience from Kew and its partners, focused primarily on development and implementation of techniques for rapid tropical forest mapping and inventory, including structural accounting for biomass, and on remote sensing for monitoring forest cover and land use change associated with different management regimes.

Also in 2008, the team conducted an audit of Kew’s science activities with relevance to the role of plants in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The purpose of the audit was to provide an overview of Kew’s activities in this field, to assess Kew’s contribution in this scientific area, and to develop resources for use in both internal and external communications. During the audit, information was gathered from staff in Kew’s science and horticulture departments. The audit identified 104 science projects relevant to climate change. The team also reviewed external reports related to plant diversity, policy, plant conservation and climate change. A final report, including full analysis and recommendations, was presented to Kew’s Senior Science Group in July 2009.

The audit established that Kew has a strong portfolio of activities which contribute to the scientific understanding of the impacts of climate change. These activities are evenly spread across all science departments. In particular, key areas of strength are: baseline data provision through vegetation survey, mapping and monitoring; identifying the status and trends of rare species; and ex situ conservation. Several of these activities are unique to Kew, for example the scale of baseline data on plants, and the size and diversity of Kew’s ex situ collections. The audit and review of external reports identify several potential areas of future science activity for Kew.

In 2010, the team hosted a visit from a minister from the UK Department of Climate Change (DECC), to describe the activities taken by the team over the last 4 years, and to help to find ways in which Kew could continue to inform DECC in developing climate change policies.

In 2010 – 2011, the team worked with BGCI to assess how botanic gardens could contribute to activities towards the Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+) mechanism, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The resulting manual A REDD+ manual for botanic gardens (Probert et al. 2011), helps botanic gardens to identify projects which could contribute. This was followed by the production of an internal analysis of Kew’s potential role in REDD+, written as a tool to help raise Kew’s profile in this area and further focus its science and policy activities towards maximising its contribution.

Future activities within this project will include continued engagement with strategic science policy and the development of procedures to maintain Kew’s science programme up-to-date through a simplified reporting mechanism on climate change science projects and relevant national and international policies.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Ali, N. S. & Trivedi, C. (2010). Botanic Gardens and Climate Change - an audit of scientific activities at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Biodivers Conserv. 20: 295-307.
  • Moat, J., Crouch, C., Milliken, W., Smith, P., Hamilton, M. and Baena, S. (2008). Rapid forest inventory and mapping: monitoring forest cover and land use change. In: Eliasch, J. (2008). Climate Change: Financing Global Forests. Stationery Office, UK.
  • Probert, C., Sharrock, S. and Ali, N. (2010). Can botanic gardens play a role in REDD-plus? Fourth Global Botanic Gardens Congress Proceedings. Available at:
  • Probert, C., Sharrock, S. and Ali, N. (2011). A REDD+ manual for botanic gardens. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond, UK.
  • Ali, N. (Ed.) (2010). Plant Diversity and Climate Change – a review of Kew’s scientific activities relevant to climate change. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 11 pp.

Project partners and collaborators


Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)
Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GPPC)


Royal Society

Project team

Conservation, Living Collections & Estates

Paul Smith, Noel McGough, Natasha Ali, Clare Trivedi

Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives

William Milliken, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Alan Paton, Justin Moat

Science Teams: