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HomeNewsGreen spaces for everyone, everywhere

Green spaces for everyone, everywhere

A few years ago, a college professor created the 3-30-300 rule. In it, he envisions a world where everyone can see at least three trees from their window, live in a neighbourhood with at least 30% vegetation cover and be no more than 300 metres from high-quality urban green spaces. With two-thirds of the world’s population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, this rule not only aims to make cities greener because of the many benefits that trees and green spaces bring, but also aims to ensure that those benefits are perceived by all people living in cities. something crucial.

We know that trees and green spaces, also known as urban or peri-urban forests, help mitigate many of the drawbacks of living in urban areas. They dampen noise and filter pollutants from traffic and industry, providing protection against respiratory diseases. They provide space for exercise, recreation, and stress recovery. Evidence of the benefits of contact with forests and green spaces on mental health is already widely documented.

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Urban forests also alleviate the effects of climate change. With global temperatures rising, urban forests not only absorb carbon, but can also help cool city air by up to eight degrees Celsius and reduce the effects of urban heat islands, which can be lethal during heat waves. They can also offer protection against natural disasters such as floods and landslides.

The need to achieve equitable access to urban green spaces was enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include a specific target to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible public green spaces, particularly for women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons by 2030. However, a new study published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reveals that we are still far from urban populations benefiting equitably from urban forests and green spaces.

A few years ago, a college professor created the 3-30-300 rule. In it, he envisions a world where everyone can see at least three trees from their window, live in a neighbourhood with at least 30% vegetation cover and be no more than 300 metres from high-quality urban green spaces

Urban forests: a global perspective shows that, especially in low- and middle-income countries, rapid urbanization without proper planning often leads to cities with few trees and green spaces, or poorly located. Even in cities that recognize the importance of green spaces as part of their urban fabric, the distribution of these spaces and their benefits is often geared towards the most economically powerful districts. So-called “green gentrification” can further reduce access for residents who can no longer afford to live near their city’s green spaces.

In many places, disadvantaged communities continue to be excluded from the planning, design and management of urban green spaces. And this has to change. That’s why this week’s participants at the Second Global Forum on Urban Forests meeting in Washington issued the Washington Declaration, which provides a blueprint for achieving more equitable urban greening. This includes analyzing urban areas to identify imbalances in the distribution of green space and engaging residents and community leaders at every stage of the planning process.

While we are far from having a world populated with urban utopias, some programs and initiatives suggest that there are diverse planning authorities that think more inclusively when it comes to equal access to urban forests and the treasures they offer.

So-called “green gentrification” can further reduce access for residents who can no longer afford to live near their city’s green spaces

Globally, governments are allocating more funds to urban greening programs. For example, the city of Maringá in southern Brazil is planting trees in the most disadvantaged parts of the city’s periphery to help provide better air quality and shade for its citizens during hot and humid tropical summers. In China, the Guangzhou municipal government aims to build 4,500 kilometers of greenways by 2035, ensuring that 90% of its citizens live within 300 meters of the nearest park in their neighborhood and within 1,000 meters of the nearest urban park. And in Sierra Leone, the “Freetown the TreeTown” campaign attracts residents of low-income areas of the capital to plant and maintain trees. As an added incentive, participants are paid with credits for their mobile phones through the use of an app that monitors the progress of the seedlings.

At the global level, the importance of urban forests for human health and for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change is increasingly recognized, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework calling for the enhancement of green and blue urban spaces for human well-being. But for the world to meet the global goals, all urban populations, and not just a privileged few, must have access to green spaces.

Zhimin Wu is Director of the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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