Kew welcomes publication of the much anticipated 25 year Environment Plan after months of consultations, including contributions from RBG Kew and recommendations from the Natural Capital Committee of which Prof Kathy Willis, Director of Science at RBG Kew, is a member. It has been a long time in production, and the scale of ambition reflects input and suggestions from many environmental organisations. The 151 page document is a blueprint for action that prioritises the environment and will guide policy for many years to come.
The plan considers improvements in the environment over the long term, and by treating various aspects of the environment as elements of natural capital, it opens the door to seeing new investments in protecting and enhancing the environment for everyone.
“The publication of 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,” says Prof Willis.
What is in the plan and Kew’s work
One of the commitments in the plan is to create a Northern Forest between Liverpool and Hull, which will be important for ensuring clean air, locking away carbon in the fight against climate change, protecting species such as the red squirrel and providing green space for people to enjoy. The choice of tree species, their origins and how they are planted will be critical to its success. Kew can work with Defra, the Woodland Trust and others to help achieve this.
“Different species of trees provide different benefits for the environment, it isn’t just carbon draw down - some provide protection from flooding, from soil erosion and also contribute pollination services. This all has to be understood and taken into account.” says Prof Willis.
The plan also calls for high quality green spaces to be developed close to where people live for their health and wellbeing. This is something that Kew has already been talking about more widely in relation to the development of the London Environment Strategy. Through our outreach programme, Grow Wild, we are working with communities up and down the country to bring native wild flowers into their lives.
“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,” says Richard Deverell, Director of RBG Kew.
Next steps and Kew’s role
The 25 year Environment Plan is only the first step, with consistent delivery of stated commitments needed over the coming decades to achieve government’s goal of ‘leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation’.
Placing natural capital such as healthy forests and other landscapes at the heart of the government’s plan is a very positive move. Research shows that a thriving natural environment is not only good for biodiversity but also has critical societal and economic benefits.
Kew does active research and also implements projects across the world that will contribute to implementing the Environment Plan. For example, Kew has been working to protect tree seeds in the UK as a resource for science via the UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP). This is in response to calls for conserving, restoring and extending woodland cover in the country, which will help improve resilience to the impacts of climate change and other environmental change pressures.
A great strength of Kew, both in the UK and globally, is the huge amount of knowledge it has on the diversity of plant and fungal species (our collections), their characteristics and the benefits that can be derived from them individually and collectively. We are proud to work in partnership with countries around the world, helping them protect their biodiversity and identify the benefits it provides to everyone.