Climate change is here

Dr David Bek is a Reader in Sustainable Economies based at the Research Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University (UK), where he co-leads the Sustainable Production and Consumption Cluster. This column was written for the September 2021 edition of FloraCulture International.

The last decade has been the warmest on Planet Earth for 125,000 years, with average temperatures being 1.1 degrees higher than the pre-industrial era less than two centuries ago. According to the IPCC’s 2021 report, this waring is causing discernible changes in weather and climate across the globe. What does this mean for the horticulture industry? Taking the floriculture industry as an example, there are clear threats in the major global production areas– East Africa is predicted to be a global ‘hotspot’ for temperature increases, whilst Holland and England’s fenlands will confront erratic weather patterns and increased threats from rising sea levels. Furthermore, these changes are happening now, they are not a distant, existential threat. Changes in locations of production are inevitable in the very near future aligned to greater use of technology to control growing environments.

Horticulture has a key role to play in the drive towards ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions. Horticultural products themselves lie at the heart of wider climate change mitigation policies, especially the greening of spaces in urban areas. Whilst ornamental horticultural products offer every citizen the opportunity to contribute to the larger battle against climate change – each garden plant helps to trap carbon in the soil where it belongs, every garden or even window box can help to promote local biodiversity. The industry as a whole needs to loudly promote these benefits and bring consumers along the sustainability journey. Commercial players must get their own houses in order.

The noise around sustainability in horticulture has grown exponentially in the last five years, with ‘green’ products and branding exploding within the horticultural marketplace. Now measurable and transparent actions are needed across the industry to make sure that initiatives are truly sustainable and not greenwash. Programmes such as the multi-stakeholder HortiFootprint project, which provides a robust tool for assessing environmental impacts suggest that the industry is grasping the nettle. The stakes could not be higher and it is vital that impactful sustainability measures are adopted as the norm across the industry as a whole as soon as possible.

There is no more time to waste.

Dr David Bek is the keynote speaker at AIPH Sustainability Conference on 30 September 2021

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