City mayors urge governments, business to help them protect forests

by Michael Taylor | @MickSTaylor | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 22 September 2021 09:25 GMT

The Quadriga atop the Brandenburg Gate is pictured through autumn trees, in Berlin, Germany, October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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A group of nearly 60 mayors say they are doing what they can to make their cities greener, but a wider effort is needed to make a big enough difference to the climate

By Michael Taylor

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From Paris to Jakarta and Sao Paulo, close to 60 mayors of major cities on Wednesday called on governments and companies to ramp up forest protection as they pledged to green their own streets.

The declaration, signed by leaders of 57 cities on six continents representing more than 170 million people, was organised by the Cities4Forests initiative, a network of cities committed to conserving and restoring forests.

"There isn't enough action at the national level and we are losing the war on deforestation," said John-Rob Pool, implementation manager at Cities4Forests, which is led by the World Resources Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank.

"We have a critical mass of cities willing to speak up about the importance of forests for themselves ... and urban residents, (and) for the importance of forest conservation," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Safeguarding carbon-rich forests is vital to help the world meet its goals to cut planet-heating emissions.

Forests also help clean air and water, support human health, offer flood protection and mitigate urban heat for cities.

But in 2020, tropical forest losses around the world equalled the size of the Netherlands, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Signatories of the Cities4Forests declaration - which also include Freetown, Glasgow, Oslo, Accra, Mexico City and San Francisco - called on all governments to implement strong policies to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests.

Governments of developed nations should also provide trade and financial incentives to support conservation of forests, particularly those within the tropics, the declaration said.

This includes supporting sustainable agriculture and reforming policies that are detrimental to forests, it added.

Banks, investors and sovereign wealth funds should avoid investing in activities that can fuel deforestation, such as palm oil and beef production, and should prioritise nature-based solutions and deforestation-free commodities, Pool said.

Companies must also ensure their supply chains are beneficial to nature, the declaration added.

Last year, a group of global household brands launched a new push to combat tropical forest loss after struggling to meet a 2020 sustainability target.

To play their part, many cities are raising awareness of the importance of forest conservation, promoting sustainable products among consumers, and restoring vegetation, Pool added.

"As mayors, we are protecting the world's forests by regreening our cities and protecting our vast natural lands," said Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown.

"But we can't do it alone. We call on national governments to step up their ambitions," she said in a statement.

Read more:

Walk in the park: Cities fight climate change with greenery 

'Tree equity': U.S. cities urged to focus planting in areas most at risk

OPINION: The most promising – and proven – carbon capture technology is nature

(Reporting by Michael Taylor @MickSTaylor; Editing by Beh Lih Yi and Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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