Image credit: UNECE. - Photo: 2019

Cities Decide to Wage Battle Against Climate Change

By Caroline Mwanga

NEW YORK (IDN) – The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that climate change is “the battle of my life”. The fact is that it’s a battle we are all fighting. The battle is taking place particularly in cities. The very basis of urban life is threatened: by rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, floods, droughts and storms. These are ravaging people’s homes, destroying infrastructure and jeopardizing vital access to basic services such as clean water and sewage.

But cities are not just at the receiving end of devastating consequences of climate change; they very much contribute to it. Some estimates suggest that cities are responsible for 75 per cent of global C02 emissions, with transport and buildings counting among the largest contributors.

One simple yet powerful way of building more sustainable and resilient cities is planting trees. Strategically planted trees can cool the air by between 2 °C and 8 °C, thereby reducing air conditioning needs by 30 per cent. A single tree can absorb up to 150 kg of C02 per year and help mitigate climate change.

The Trees in Cities Challenge is a global campaign launched by UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova to localize action taken to combat climate change and foster urban sustainability and resilience. It is a voluntary initiative aimed at mayors and corresponding urban authorities in cities across the world

According to the UNECE (UN Economic Commission for Europe), the Mayors of Tirana (Albania), Victoria (Canada), Bonn (Germany) and Helsingborg (Sweden) are the first on board and will be announcing their intention to join the initiative as part of their cities’ climate action agenda.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, Luis Alfonso de Alba, has welcomed the Trees in Cities initiative. He said: “I think it is a very important one. Trees play a very important role in the fight against climate change. They do not only capture carbon but also help us to lower the temperature. I encourage all involved – local authorities and citizens – to join this campaign and make a difference.”

“We need concrete, realistic plans for climate action at all levels – the message is clear. Critically, this includes action in urban areas, which are at the forefront of the battle against climate change,” UNECE Executive Secretary Algayerova said.

“This is why I am inviting all Mayors and urban leaders to make a tree-planting pledge through the Trees in Cities Challenge. By delivering on this pledge, cities can take the practical climate action we urgently need and make a tangible contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“The city of Bonn will plant around 25,000 trees in the city forest by the end of 2020. These are mainly native species, mostly oak, hornbeam and winter lime. In addition, at least 200 new street and city trees are to be planted in the same period. Like Bonn, ICLEI network cities around the world are focusing on nature-based development and sharing their efforts through the CitiesWithNature platform,” said Ashok Sridharan, Mayor of Bonn, and President of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

“To truly create change, strategies and plans are not enough. We all have to take action towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and I am convinced that the world’s cities and their mayors must lead the way. Therefore, I welcome the Trees in Cities Challenge. My pledge today is that the city of Helsingborg will plant 8,000 more trees before the end of 2020”, noted Mr. Peter Danielsson, Mayor of Helsingborg.

By taking the Challenge, cities can unlock multiple sustainability benefits – for the climate, environment and society:

    trees help clean the air of harmful pollutants

    trees can limit the effects of urban heat islands, reducing air conditioning needs

    trees help control land erosion, reduce landslides and control surface water, and help mitigate flood damage

    planting trees can boost biodiversity in cities

    green spaces in urban areas can contribute to stronger communities and improved wellbeing

    trees can increase surrounding property values by an estimated 2-10%.

UNECE will showcase cities’ progress on their tree-planting pledges on a dedicated website and through international fora, encouraging other urban leaders around the world to take concrete local action through the initiative. The campaign will initially run until the end of 2020. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 September 2019]

Image credit: UNECE.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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