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45 cities join Cities4Forests initiative pledging to conserve and restore forests

At the Global Climate Action Summit, 45 cities across six continents joined the Cities4Forests initiative. Representing over 164 million residents, the coalition of cities have committed to conserve and restore their forests while making residents more aware of the vast benefits of trees such as public health, water, and climate benefits.

Floods and landslides are wreaking havoc on cities from Bangkok to Bangalore. Urban heat islands are exacerbating sweltering temperatures from Los Angeles to São Paulo. Concerns about drinking water are growing from Bogota to Johannesburg to Jakarta. Rising sea levels threaten Miami and Mumbai alike. A coalition of 45 cities has joined the Cities4Forests initiative to protect their residents from these threats by committing to conserve and restore their forests while making residents more aware of the vast benefits of trees (graphic courtesy WRI).

Cities joining the Cities4Forests initiative, announced on September 12 during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Franciso, California include Addis Ababa, Amman, Auckland, Bogotá, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kigali, Kochi, Mexico City, Oslo, Quito, São Paulo, Toronto, and Vienna, with many more across the globe and in the United States (US) such as Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

As Antananarivo is hit by cyclones and tropical storms every year, I fully understand the importance of protecting and restoring trees and forests inside and nearby our city. Green areas can reduce our risks from natural disasters, support climate action strategies and contribute to a more healthy and resilient environment said Mayor Lalao Ravalomanana, of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Cities4Forests is managed by World Resources Institute (WRI), Pilot Projects Design Collective, a systems thinking and design consultancy based in Montreal and New York City, and REVOLVE, a Europeana communication group.

Cities joining the programme can benefit from their technical assistance to measure tree cover canopy and prioritize where to plant trees for maximum benefit; increased capacity to apply for funding for tree planting; advice on where to look for financing to protect watersheds or restore degraded areas; help writing sustainable procurement guidelines for timber, construction materials and paper products; assistance securing legitimate carbon credits that keep tropical forests standing.

Cities have invisible footprints on faraway forests that most people aren’t aware of. The commodities that we consume – timber, paper, palm oil, beef, soybeans – can be responsible for destroying forests. And the benefits that forests provide to cities are underappreciated too. The more we learn about how trees interact with the atmosphere, the more we realize how forests influence the climate on both a local and a global scale. Forests are an important source of climate resilience and stability for people, no matter where we live, said Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow at WRI.

Inner, nearby and faraway forests

Recognising the value of trees and forest to cities and their residents, the Cities4Forests initiative works at three levels: inner, nearby and faraway forests. Trees within cities—the inner forests in parks, boulevards, and yards—help filter air, moderate temperatures, and lower energy bills.

Trees in the watersheds surrounding cities—nearby forests— act as a buffer against flooding and landslides, lower water treatment costs, offer exercise opportunities and give residents an escape from hectic urban life.

Trees in faraway forests, particularly in the tropics, sequester carbon to help combat climate change, generate rain for the world’s farm belts, provide an array of essential products and medicinal ingredients, and host the majority of the world’s land-based biodiversity.

As the City of Trees, we in Sacramento recognize the important role forests play in promoting clean air and water and enhancing the quality of life of all residents. From their ability to curb climate change to the miles of hiking and biking trails they provide, without forests, our city cannot truly thrive. Cities4Forests will help us, and other cities, share the best ways to prioritize, restore, and protect the trees that make our communities vibrant and healthy, said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, of Sacramento.

Recognising the value of trees and forest to cities and their residents, the Cities4Forests initiative works at three levels: inner, nearby and faraway forests (graphic courtesy WRI).

Reduce, restore and manage

The 45 founding cities of Cities4Forests include cities from every continent except Antarctica, representing 164.9 million residents in their metropolitan areas. Participating cities share a commitment to reduce deforestation, restore forests and help manage forests both inside and outside city limits. Each city joining the Cities4Forests initiative has committed to:

  • Understand – To assess their reliance and impacts on trees and forests.
  • Engage – To raise awareness among residents about the benefits forests provide, communicate what people can do to make a positive impact and collaborate across government agencies to improve the health of trees and forests.
  • Innovate – To harness the power of forests to help achieve climate goals, secure clean and stable water supplies, reduce stormwater runoff, improve public health and provide recreation.
  • Act – To implement new tools, local policies, voluntary programs, investments and public procurement decisions to meet these goals.
  • Progress – To engage at the three Cities4Forest scales (inner, nearby, and faraway forests), participating in at least one level by 2020, two by 2022 and all three by 2025.
  • Share – To share insights, experiences, and innovations to inspire ambition and mobilize action among cities around the world.

City officials will also benefit from a peer-to-peer exchange network to learn from other cities and highlight success cases, and a citizen engagement and communications package.

Conserving our forests is a top priority in Mexico City’s climate action plan. In fact, 59 percent of the city’s territory is conserved land that provides multiple environmental benefits – absorbing carbon emissions, protecting our water supply, regulating the city’s temperature and creating space for biodiversity. These benefits are fundamental for Mexico City’s sustainability and for our residents’ quality of life. And we recognize that forests outside of the city’s boundaries need to be protected too. Mexico City is the first local government in Latin America to launch a Forest Carbon Bond. Now with our commitment to Cities4Forests, we continue advancing even more ambitious climate goals, said Tanya Müller García, Mexico City’s Secretary of Environment.

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