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Press release: Kew welcomes new UK environment plan

As the UK government releases its 25 Year Environment Plan today, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew welcomes the plan’s long-term approach, scale of ambition and its focus on natural capital.
Release date: 
11 January 2018

New UK environment plan

As a world leader, Kew understands how biodiversity benefits humanity and why we need to invest in protecting and enhancing it.  This knowledge is applied both in the UK and around the world through partnerships in 110 countries, to support efforts to deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well as improving the environment and people’s wellbeing. The UK National Tree Seed project is one such drive, as is the mapping work Kew has done in Ethiopia to help build a climate resilient coffee economy .

RBG Kew also supports the plan’s aim to foster a society that is better connected with nature.  As a visitor attraction and the most biodiverse place in the world, Kew is engaging thousands of people with nature every day, in education programmes and beyond its walls through outreach initiatives such as Grow Wild.

Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said:

“The 25-year plan is a truly significant moment for the environment.  It could lead to a transformation in the way we think about the world around us, in which we adopt a much more holistic approach.  Instead of just focusing on land use for farming or industry, treating the environment as a resource to be exploited, it becomes an asset to be invested in and enhanced for everyone’s benefit.

The plan is only the first step though, consistent delivery over the coming decades will be needed to achieve the government’s goal of leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation.

The Northern Forest plan announced this week is a tremendous first step to making this plan a reality.  It shows scale and ambition in designing something that would bring nature and people together, leading to multiple benefits that are felt by everyone who lives close to it.

Critical to its success will be choosing which species of tree are planted, and the origin of those trees, so they bring the maximum benefits in terms of biodiversity, carbon drawdown, soil stability and clean water, as well as understanding the balance between native and non-native, rare and endemic species.  We would be delighted to work with the Woodland Trust, Defra and other partners to help address this.”

Richard Deverell, Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said:

“Kew is committed to playing its part in making this plan a reality. As a leading global resource for plant knowledge, home to 95% of the known plant genera in the world, we can help to develop tools and advise on its implementation.

There is a logical and rational reason for protecting and enhancing nature, but there is an emotional one too. Being amongst trees is life-enhancing, boosting everyone’s wellbeing. Across all of Kew’s activities, we are bringing people closer to nature, building their understanding and love for plants.

And beyond the gardens, our Grow Wild initiative has helped people and communities across the UK to bring native wild flowers into their lives and support vital pollinators.”


For more information or to request an interview contact or call 0208 332 5605.

Notes to editors

TOOLS – Industry, government and individuals are going to need new tools to help them operationalise this plan.  Working with other scientific institutions Kew is helping to share exciting new modelling tools for land owners to help them to work out the natural capital value of land.  Like Google Earth for natural capital, it can highlight the various uses for land - where is most suitable for pollination, where might provide a great barrier to erosion etc. - to establish an economic value that is more accurate.

KNOWLEDGE - Kew houses the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world, containing over 8.5 million items and representing 95% of the world’s known vascular plant genera and 60% of known fungal genera. Kew researchers are involved in identifying which plants and fungi contribute to important ecosystem services, sustainable livelihoods and natural capital, and how do we manage them.  Collecting, conserving and understanding those plant and fungal species that underpin ecosystem services and therefore have a strong societal benefit, is of huge importance, both in the UK and globally. Collections to support this will especially target plants and fungi that provide specific uses, particularly those under threat, such as:

  • Plant artefacts and raw materials relating to human use and well-being
  • Orphan crops, crop wild relatives and selected forage crops
  • Tree genera exploited heavily in the international trade of timber
  • Medicinal plants including those that have general antimicrobial and antifungal properties

GLOBALLY – This plan is one of national action with international ambitions according to the government.  Kew’s partnerships and collaborations in 110 countries actively support foreign government efforts to deliver against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and staff knowledge contributes to delivering the commitments in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The Natural Capital Committee’s Advice on the government's 25 Year Environment Plan which was co-authored by Prof Kathy Willis

Kew's Science Strategy

Grow Wild is the UK’s biggest-ever wild flower campaign, bringing people together to transform local spaces with native, pollinator-friendly wild flowers and plants.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst, attract over 1.5 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.