Cities around the globe are home to about 50 percent of the world’s population, but cities generate 80 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, not to mention other forms of pollution. Cities are consuming a disproportionate share of natural resources, as well. Fortunately, many sustainable cities are taking steps to minimize their impacts on the environment and to minimize the threats that natural disasters pose to them. Our urban forests are a vital part of the equation. Saving and planting as many trees as possible offers multiple benefits, including:
- Minimize energy consumption by strategically placing more trees near residential and commercial properties to help us minimize energy use;
- Maximize tree placements along roadways, railways, and other open spaces to help offset carbon dioxide gases, while minimizing the heat-island effect in many urban areas;
- Promote urban agroforestry initiatives;
- Generate more oxygen, while minimizing air pollution;
- Create and preserve urban habitat for wildlife; and
- Use tree-planting events to help educate communities about carbon neutrality and energy management.
In Los Angeles, California, the city has planted over 1 million trees since 2010. The goal is to plant 9 million trees by 2050. This would create one of the largest urban forests in the world and help to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 25 percent.
In Singapore, the city government has a one million trees movement. The goal is to plant one million trees by 2030. The city has already planted over 500,000 trees, and it is on track to reach its goal. Singapore’s urban forest helps to reduce the city’s temperature and improve air quality.
In Medellín, Colombia, the city has planted over 5 million trees in the last 20 years. This has helped to reduce the city’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius and improve air quality. Medellín’s urban forest is now a model for other cities around the world. These are just a few examples of how urban forests are fighting global warming and climate change. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, urban forests will play an even more important role in mitigating the effects of climate change and making cities more sustainable and livable places. More examples of cities using urban forests to fight climate change include:
- Chicago, Illinois has a goal of planting 75,000 trees per year. The city has also created a “heat island mitigation plan” that includes increasing tree cover in low-income communities of color, which are often disproportionately affected by the heat island effect;
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a goal of doubling its tree canopy by 2050;
- Austin, Texas has a goal of planting 1 million trees by 2030. The city has also created a “heat island mitigation plan” that includes planting trees in strategic locations to reduce the urban heat island effect;
- Portland, Oregon has a goal of planting 3 million trees by 2030; and
- Seattle, Washington has a goal of planting 30 percent of its land area with trees.
These are just a few examples of the many cities around the world that are using urban forests to fight climate change. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, urban forests will play an even more important role in mitigating the effects of climate change and making cities more sustainable and livable places.