It takes a village - or a city - to save a forest.
A global coalition of municipalities have joined forces to improve forest management and fight climate change, both within and outside of their cities.
Cities4Forests, lead by the World Resources Institute (WRI), is a commitment by municipalities around the world to integrate forests and sustainable development into their city planning. Cities4Forests activates governments and urban residents politically, socially, and economically against deforestation and degradation of global forests.
Currently, 52 cities across 6 continents (Antarctica being the exception) have signed on to the global coalition. Member cities receive technical support on sustainable best-practices from WRI and their partners, as well as benefit from a network of like-minded innovative and sustainably focused cities.
Forests matter for cities
People living in the concrete jungle are often insulated from the more obvious signs and effects of deforestation, and may not realize just how integral forests are to ensuring cities stay livable. But forests, both near and far, have considerable value for people in urban centres.
Cities4Forests organizes the significance of forests to cities into three broad categories - inner, nearby, and faraway forests - to illustrate for urbanites just how necessary forests are for health and well-being even in the safety of a big city.
Inner forests are the trees found within city limits. From the trees lining your street to parks throughout your neighbourhood, these inner forests have a bigger impact on residents’ lives than just offering a nice spot for a picnic. They shade roads, sidewalks, buildings and people from the sun helping everyone stay cool and reducing energy bills. Trees in the city also clean the air of toxins and pollutants like CO2, minimizing smog and supplying residents with fresh oxygen to breathe.
Forests just outside of the city limits are called nearby forests. These green spaces are your weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of living in the city. Even more importantly, forests surrounding the city limits reduce flooding and landslides while providing clean drinking water for people in town.
Faraway forests are further from cities and tend to be the main targets of deforestation. Despite their geographic distance, their impact on the lives of those in the city is incalculable. They sequester massive amounts of carbon, help generate rain for growing food, are essential for producing medicines and plant products, and host some 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.
Cities Matter to Climate Change
As the world’s population inevitably climbs and urban areas become more populated, recognizing the significance of forest coverage for those living in cities is critical. Currently 55% of the world’s population lives in an urban centre (more than 4 billion people). With a rapidly growing global population, that number will increase to nearly 70% by 2050.
With such large populations already, cities are major contributors to climate change and in many cases they have the most to lose.
The world’s biggest cities consume ⅔ of global electricity and contribute some 70% of global CO2 emissions. But with 90% of major cities on a coast, rising sea levels brought on by climate change threaten the viability of these cities in the future, putting 800 million people at risk of losing their homes.
Cities4Forests hopes to mitigate these effects by doing what is within their "power to reduce deforestation, restore forests (including more trees in cities)," raise awareness and "harness the power of forests to achieve climate goals.'
Coming up with effective public policy and innovative means of mitigating the impact cities have on the environment is a necessary next step for combating global warming. Ensuring forests remain intact, expand and thrive as cities grow means our planet will continue to provide us with a happy and healthy environment to live in. Cities4Forests, and other coalitions like it, take up this mantel and represent a welcome, positive initiative against deforestation.
To find out more about Cities4Forests and how your city can get involved visit the WRI webpage.
We plant trees on 4 continents around the world. Want to choose where yours are planted?
by Joseph Coppolino
Organic Content Creator & Enviro-fabulist