The 80th Committee on Forests and the Forestry Industry opens with opportunities for bringing nature back into our cities
As cities grow, urban planners and city administrators face daily challenges in maintaining healthy, sustainable, liveable, and resilient urban environments capable of contributing to a good quality of life for city dwellers.
The 80th Session of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forestry Industry highlighted that urban and peri-urban forests are a cost-effective solution to address the compounding challenges cities face.
75-tree forest planted for UNECE in San Marino to promote sustainable cities for current and future generations
75 years ago, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) started working on forests. Today, we recognize their enormous potential not only for humans, fauna, flora, and the environment, but also for cities. In an urbanizing world, the contribution of forests to cleaning our air and water, cooling urban heat islands, supporting our health and well-being by shielding us from floods and landslides and providing opportunities for recreation are increasingly important.
With the planting of 75 trees in San Marino, UNECE reaffirms its commitment to supporting countries to make cities greener, more sustainable and resilient. This tiny forest connects old and young, thus allowing generations to live in a healthier urban environment today and tomorrow.
75 trees for urban biodiversity
Cities, which are already responsible for around 75% of global CO2 emissions, are also at the forefront of fighting climate change and simultaneously are particularly vulnerable to its impacts. Urban trees and forests have been highlighted as a solution that can help to achieve the SDGs and make the cities resilient to the future impact of larger populations, higher temperatures, pandemics, weather extremes and natural disasters.
Geneva has planted the first two urban micro-forests (also known as Miyawaki forests) in Switzerland. The city has also begun to progressively abandon the pruning of its architectural trees, to increase the canopy size and cover of existing public trees. Further along Lake Leman, Lausanne is also working to increase canopy cover within the city from current coverage of 20% to a target of 30% by 2040.
In France, the City of Nice plans to plant 280,000 trees by 2026, a five-fold increase in the number of trees in the city. Nice is also updating its urban planning policies to ensure that only species adapted to the changing climate are used. Bordeaux has complemented its tree planting pledge with a commitment to strengthen sustainable urban forest management practices, which is critical to maintain and enhance the benefits of urban trees and forests for future generations.
UNECE supports Sustainable Urban and Peri-Urban Forestry for public health, climate resilience and green recovery
Spending extended periods of time at home under COVID-19 restrictions highlighted the need for accessible green spaces like never before, particularly for city dwellers who sought out green spaces for fresh air, exercise and a break from the confines of their apartments. Access to green open spaces is critical to maintaining positive mental and physical health, yet a recent pan-European study showed that more than 60% of people in European cities live in areas with insufficient green space according to World Health Organization standards.
In Helsingborg we are trying new ways to establish trees in our urban areas to bring the forest into the city and the urban environment.
We are currently focusing on areas where it is typically more difficult to establish and plant trees, such as newly constructed building areas that have compacted soils. In these areas, it’s easier to plant smaller qualities of plants together and make a small urban forest, or pocket park out of them.
This approach of planting small qualities of significantly cheaper plants together, quite densely, and then gradually thinning out the trees will, in the long run, create a forest grove with a variety of different trees of different heights and forms.
We create raised planting beds, of about 15 cm, where the existing clay soil is reinforced with 30% compost and covered with hardwood chip to keep the soil moist longer, in an effort to create a good environment for the trees from the get-go.
Policymakers looking for innovative solutions to global problems are increasingly recognizing that the answers have been around for a long time even before the earth got populated by humans. Trees can help achieve pressing global objectives for sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, and climate action.
However, it is not just the quantity of trees planted that matters. Rather, we must grow trees for generations to come – and growing the right trees in the right locations can make all the difference. Cities are one of the most critical locations. Two-thirds of humanity will live in cities by 2050, accompanied by massive concentrations of investments in public and private infrastructure and economies. At the same time, cities are a major driver of the climate crisis, responsible for around 75% of global carbon dioxide emissions while remaining highly vulnerable to its impacts.
Over the last decade, the local government has worked with citizens to plant over 2.5 million trees and shrubs in a large-scale landscaping programme entitled, “Million Trees”, which was launched in 2013. Now, under the “Trees in Cities Challenge”, the leadership of Moscow has committed to adding new trees to its parks, squares and courtyards, and increasing the monitoring of its urban canopy to counter the outbreak of pests and diseases.
Mr. Sergey Cheremin, Moscow Government Minister and Head of the Department for External Economic and International Relations of Moscow, said “For many years Moscow has been striving to improve the well-being and comfortable living of its inhabitants. Our participation in “Trees in Cities Challenge” confirms Moscow's intention to evolve in urban greening and become one of the modern leading capitals in the creation of a favorable environment.”