Cyclist on forested path by river

Amman, Auckland, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Oslo, Sacramento and more cities representing over 164 million residents join Cities4Forests initiative

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 12, 2018) – 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. Now, a coalition of cities has emerged to protect their residents from these threats by deploying a highly underrated resource: forests.

Today at the Global Climate Action Summit, 45 cities across six continents joined the Cities4Forests initiative, committing to conserve and restore their forests while making residents more aware of the vast benefits of trees. Cities joining include Addis Ababa, Bogotá, Kigali, Kochi, Quito, São Paulo, Toronto and Vienna, with many more across the globe and in the U.S. such as Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

“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,” said Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow at World Resources Institute. “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.”

Trees and forests are immensely valuable 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—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,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, of Sacramento. “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.” 

“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,” said Mayor Lalao Ravalomanana, of Antananarivo, Madagascar. “Green areas can reduce our risks from natural disasters, support climate action strategies and contribute to a more healthy and resilient environment.”

The 45 founding cities of Cities4Forests include cities from every continent except Antarctica, representing 164.9 million residents in their metropolitan areas (see the full list below). 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:

  • Share. To share insights, experiences, and innovations to inspire ambition and mobilize action among cities around the world.
  • 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.
  • Act. To implement new tools, local policies, voluntary programs, investments and public procurement decisions to meet these goals.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Understand. To assess their reliance and impacts on trees and forests.

“Conserving our forests is a top priority in Mexico City’s climate action plan,” said Tanya Müller García, Mexico City’s Secretary of Environment. “In fact, 59% 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.”

Cities4Forests is managed by World Resources Institute, Pilot Projects and REVOLVE. Cities joining the program 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; and much more.

“I am an enthusiastic city dweller in a capital surrounded by deep forests. I know how vital these accessible, yet quiet forests are to the health and well being of the people of Oslo,” said Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen, who is supporting the initiative. “Indeed, forests are incredibly valuable to cities and urban citizens for contemplation, exercise, by providing improved air quality and cleaner drinking water. Still, forests further away – particularly in the tropics – are even more important. They support rainfall for food production and food security worldwide and they combat climate change by storing massive amounts of carbon. Halting and reversing tropical deforestation is critical to retain these benefits, and only with cities and their citizens on board can we succeed.”

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.