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2016 - Present
Trees and forests are immensely valuable to cities and their citizens. Trees and forests provide multiple health benefits, sustain water resources, help to combat climate change, and protect global biodiversity. Specifically, trees within cities (the “inner forests”) clean the air, offset heat islands (and lower energy bills), and support human health and wildlife. Trees in watersheds surrounding cities (the “nearby forests”) contribute to cleaner air and drinking water, reduce flooding, and offer an escape from hectic urban life. And trees in the “faraway forests”—particularly in the tropics—sequester large amounts of carbon, generate rain for the world’s farm belts, provide a wealth of useful products, and host the majority of the world’s land-based biodiversity.
In return, cities can provide immense value to forests. Because urban areas are increasingly where people live and work, the public policies and procurement practices of cities—as well as the values, votes, and consumption patterns of citizens—have enormous potential to support the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of forests. Many cities already support forests in some way, from parks and urban forest to “green infrastructure” and watershed management programs. Fewer, if any, have efforts to support the faraway forests that are vital for combating climate change.
Yet forests remain under threat. Each year, at least 5 million hectares (12.3 million acres) of forest—an area the size of Costa Rica—are permanently converted to other uses around the world, and many millions more are degraded. Forest loss and degradation contribute more than 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and have devastating impacts on local communities. Meanwhile, cities have become increasingly distant—both literally and figuratively—from the forests upon which they rely. Many citizens do not feel connected to forests, and city governments often fail to tap into forests as solutions to urban problems. As a result, too few cities are investing in forests as part of their strategies for addressing climate change, securing clean drinking water, improving public health, reducing air pollution, mitigating disaster risk, providing recreation, and meeting other urban development priorities.
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