Are Cars Killing UK Wildflowers?

Tue 26th Oct 2021

Vehicle emissions and air pollution are killing some of the country’s most cherished wildflowers according to new analysis from Renault and British conservation charity Plantlife.

The UK’s countryside, meadows and road verges are under threat according to the report, home to 45 per cent of the nation’s flora. And with the world facing an environmental crisis with 40 per cent of plants and fungi under threat of extinction, 5.8 per of that risk due to pollution, Renault are hoping that a switch to electric cars can have a positive effect on the environment.

Up to 97 per cent of the UK’s grasslands and meadows have disappeared since the 1930s, leaving road verges as one of the last remaining sanctuaries of 700 species of wildflower - including 29 of 52 species of wild British orchid.

Renault and Plantlife have collaborated with celebrated florist and sustainability champion Larry Walshe to create a floral display using a Renault Zoe at Old English Garden in London’s Victoria Park.

“We all know that electric driving is better for the planet, but one of the least discussed benefits of electric driving is the abundantly positive impact it will have on our gardens and green spaces,” said Tom Barker, Electrification Manager at Renault UK.

“The government has legislated to only producing electric cars and vans by 2030, but our pledge is more than that. We’re committed to making zero-emissions travel accessible to everyone, with electric driving not only benefitting the planet overall, but our green spaces we appreciate and care so much for.”

As well as encouraging the UK’s 32 million drivers to switch to EVs, the flower display also promotes Renault’s ‘Be Mindful, Don’t Idle’ awareness campaign, which aims to help improve air quality outside schools.

Speaking about the campaign, Parklife CEO, Ian Dunn said: “One in five British wildflowers is under threat of extinction and there is a need for speed if we are to save some of the rare and threatened flora. A concerted push to electrify vehicles is a vital part of the essential journey to reduce emissions and we applaud Renault in their ambition to accelerate their EV plans ahead of the 2030 hard deadline set by the UK government.

“Cleaner cars delivered at pace offer fresh hope to wild plants that have been force-fed a junk diet of fossil fuel fumes for decades. Nowhere is this more keenly felt than on road verges, where air pollution from vehicles combined with poor management has seen floral diversity plummet by 20 per cent as vigorous species, such as nettles, that can tolerate polluted soils have outcompeted more delicate wildflowers, like harebell.

“Grassland habitats such as road verges are of critical importance in the fight against climate change as they underpin biodiverse ecosystems abounding with wildlife and lock down carbon.”