Botany without boundaries can help make a difference - Simon Milne

Time is running out to address the most pernicious and interrelated challenges of our time – the biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency. Scotland is playing a leading role in the mitigation of these threats, and if we achieve real change now, we can help avert a climate crisis. Let us make this a decade of opportunity and change and work together to achieve a sustainable future and reach net zero by 2045.

The rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
The rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

With an understanding of what needs to change in Scotland and wider societal acceptance of the need for urgent action, we can meet the challenge and tackle the climate crisis. All known life is dependent on plants and fungi, however already 25 per cent of our wildlife has been lost with more at risk, and 11 per cent of our species are facing extinction. High-quality plant science and conservation horticulture are, therefore, vital to addressing the environmental challenge.

With the help of the Scottish Government’s ‘Let’s do Net Zero’ campaign, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is determined to play its part, applying its expertise where it can to make a real difference. The campaign itself sheds light on the actions organisations and individuals need to take to protect nature, wildlife and tackle the climate crisis. Armed with this and our newly published strategy for 2021-2026 “Responding to the Biodiversity Crisis and Climate Emergency”, we can make a difference.

At a local level, funding from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon fund is supporting a landmark programme in the Edinburgh Biomes project. By restoring our Heritage Glasshouses and redeveloping our research houses to safeguard the globally important collection of plants they house, we are grasping the requirement for energy efficiency, literally in our own back garden.

Simon Milne MBE FRSE is Regius Keeper, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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This autumn, work will start on a plant health centre, enhancing resources to research and react against the burgeoning numbers of pathogens devastating plant species and habitats around the world. There are also countless actions we as individuals can take to help conserve nature, including planting local flowers, making bird feeders and creating bug hotels.

On a global level, conserving and restoring natural forests is a climate change solution for the benefit of humankind. Protecting and researching genetic plant resources is essential for food security, economic development and public health for individuals, communities, nations and continents. It’s important to operate at a local and global level when fighting the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency, which is why we have botanical and educational partnerships from Colombia to Tajikistan, Nepal and South East Asia, bringing hope of making a difference through botany without boundaries.

Ultimately, learning about and engaging with nature brings riches beyond wealth and instils the skills and confidence required for positive change. As such, it’s vital we encourage children, young people and ourselves to connect with the world of plants and be aware of the changes going on around us. This is made possible through visiting our four, remarkable gardens.

Scotland is providing leadership for a fair and sustainable future. By sticking to our conviction for collaboration and doing our part to reach net zero, we can protect our communities, country and our planet. Find out more information on how you can protect nature and wildlife on the Let’s do Net Zero campaign website at www.netzeronation.scot

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Simon Milne MBE FRSE is Regius Keeper, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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