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3 million trees and roof-top gardens: European cities make green pledge

The Biblioteca degli Alberi 'Trees Library' park in Milan
The Biblioteca degli Alberi 'Trees Library' park in Milan   -   Copyright  Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP
By Luke Hurst

Thirty-one major cities, including the likes of London, Barcelona and Milan, have signed a declaration committing to investment in green spaces and fighting the effects of climate change.

Mayors of each city signed up to the C40 cities network goal of having 30-40 per cent of built-up city surface consisting of green spaces like parks or streets lined with trees, or permeable spaces to absorb water and prevent flooding.

Other commitments include improving access to these green spaces for locals.

The cities still have time to enter their ideas for achieving these goals, but one example includes planting three million trees in Milan by 2030.

In Barcelona meanwhile, the authorities are offering to subsidise 75 per cent of the cost of new green rooftops, creating urban allotments and space for renewable energy generation.

Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan, said after COVID-19 pandemic hit cities disproportionately there is a call from citizens to make urban space greener and healthier.

“The green and just recovery that is needed to create more sustainable and healthier cities sees urban nature as a key element for building back better,” he said.

“In Milan, we are committed to plant three million trees by 2030, to use nature-based solutions to increase resilience and protect citizens from the climate crisis, to refresh our neighbourhoods with green areas and water, and to regenerate the urban environment in a sustainable manner.”

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam, revealed the city would be working on urban greening projects and a green riverbank programme.

“These investments will improve the wellbeing of our citizens, advance biodiversity and help us adapt to severe heat, drought and heavy rain, which each could occur in a short period of time,” he said.

The C40 cities network connects major cities, allowing a sharing of knowledge and ideas and helping them to achieve their climate goals.

A number of scientific studies show greener spaces in cities can improve wellbeing, mentally and physically, such as one in Toronto published in the journal Nature, which states “having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 [€8,456]”.

The following cities signed up to the declaration: Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Curitiba, Durban, Freetown, Guadalajara, Haifa, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Medellín, Milan, Mumbai, New Orleans, Paris, Quezon City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Rotterdam, Salvador, Seattle, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and Toronto.