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As COP26 kicks off, the UK horticultural industry provides the solutions to ‘greening our economy’

Credit: Horticultural Trades Association

Horticultural Trades Association

4 min read Partner content

Horticulture has a significant role to play to help the UK reach Net Zero and deliver a greener economy. With COP26 upon us, this potential must be fully recognised.

Climate change is the defining crisis of our time.

Yet, policy-makers are under-estimating the significant role that the UK horticulture sector can play in tackling climate change and achieving Net Zero. The nation’s natural capital provides cooling and insulation, flood control and improving air quality. The social capital benefits contribute to positive mental and physical well-being and improved community cohesion.

The network of gardens and green spaces around the UK provides huge benefits to our society. It’s a national treasure no-one should take for granted.

This green network allows us to connect with nature, and for nature to restore and increase biodiversity. The £28bn British horticulture industry is proud of its role in producing, supplying and maintaining the plants and products that enhance our natural environment.

As the ‘original green industry’, we are doing what it takes to make a difference. The climate emergency means that our customers, communities, and government look to us for the highest standards.

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) launched its Sustainability Roadmap last year, with the core goal to place UK horticulture at the leading edge of sustainable business.

The major focus areas of the Roadmap are:

Many of our members are already leading the way on sustainability, building reservoirs to reduce their use of mains water, developing environmentally friendly pest control measures and as an industry we have introduced fully recyclable plant pots.

The HTA has produced a carbon reduction and water efficiency guide to enable small and medium-sized businesses, who make up the majority of our industry, reduce their carbon footprint and mains water use. It initiated and chaired the Growing Media Taskforce, a cross-industry collaboration which has developed a peat removal action plan to enable the industry to go peat free in bagged compost as early as 2025 and no later than 2028. For professional nursery growers the target is between 2028-2030.

But for meaningful policy change to happen it relies on collaboration and partnership. For all the great strides we have made as an industry, many of these ambitions rely on close working with the Government to ensure the potential of the horticultural sector is acknowledged in all future policy decisions – after all the industry underpins half of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan ambitions so is worth attention.

The recently published ‘Growing a Green Economy’ report quantified the socio-economic prize of greening our economy, saying the industry could be worth c.£42bn in contributions to UK GDP by 2030 - an increase of £13bn on 2019.

In order to achieve this goal, a coalition of horticulture groups, including the HTA, RHS, NFU, BALI, AA and others produced the industry’s ‘Unlocking Green Growth’ report which has set out where the industry can work in collaboration with Government to ‘Build Back Greener’.

We are calling on Government to fully recognise the potential of the horticultural industry as a driver of green growth across the country and work with it to:

  • Deliver a realistic and sustainable peat removal plan
  • Enable a UK-wide increase in plant and tree production through developing grower-positive policies such as:
    • Including the sector in the Seasonal Workers Pilot and extending visas from 6 to 9 months to ensure tree producers have the labour they need
    • Allowing the sector to access sustainability improvement funds currently only open to farmers – such as reservoir construction and rainwater capture systems
    • An improved planning system which backs UK growers to expand their plant and tree production facilities
    • Develop a collaborative cross-border trade strategy that enhances the value of UK grown plants and trees – allowing us to contribute to the Government’s ‘green trade strategy
    • Establishing a greater proportion of British produced plants in public sector projects

Working together we can ensure that the industry can be a leader in Net Zero and help produce a ‘green economy’ which creates a greener, happier, more sustainable society and economy.

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