Key messages

  • Forests and trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change in, and around, urban areas.
  • Trees also improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for heating by 20-50 percent.
  • Strategic placement of trees in urban areas can cool the air by up to 8 degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent.
  • Urban trees are excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants in the air and fine particulates.
  • Trees reduce noise pollution, as they shield homes from nearby roads and industrial areas.
  • Local populations use the fruits, nuts, leaves and insects found in urban trees to produce food and medicines for use in the home, or as a source of income.
  • Woodfuel sourced from urban trees and planted forests on the outskirts of cities provide renewable energy for cooking and heating, which reduces pressures on natural forests and our reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Forests in and around urban areas help to filter and regulate water, contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people. Forests also protect watersheds and prevent flooding as they store water in their branches and soil.
  • Well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, helping to maintain and increase biodiversity.
  • Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs and encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.
  • Urban green spaces, including forests, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent disease, and provide a place for people to socialize. 


Forests and Sustainable Cities: International Day of Forests 2018 More people live in cities than ever before and by 2050, 6 billion people or as much as 70% of the global population is expected to live in urban areas. But rapid urbanization does not need to result in polluted urban sprawl. Trees and urban forests can make our cities greener, healthier and happier places to live. [more]
Benefits of urban trees Large urban trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. Trees can provide food, such as fruits, nuts and leaves. Spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery. [more]


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Forests and Sustainable Cities: Inspiring stories from around the world Recognizing the importance of the services provided by forests and trees to urban dwellers, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests proposed that the theme for the 2018 International Day of Forests would be “Forests and Sustainable Cities”. Collectively, the stories presented in this publication show that investing in green solutions can pay dividends while increasing the resilience and liveability of urban environments. [more]
Unasylva 250: forests and sustainable cities Cities need forests. The network of woodlands, groups of trees and individual trees in a city and on its fringes performs a huge range of functions – such as regulating climate; storing carbon; removing air pollutants; reducing the risk of flooding; assisting in food, energy and water security; and improving the physical and mental health of citizens. This edition of Unasylva takes a close look at urban and peri-urban forestry – its benefits, pitfalls, governance and challenges. [more]
Guidelines on urban and peri-urban forestry Although cities occupy only 2 percent of the planet’s surface, their inhabitants use 75 percent of its natural resources. The world is urbanizing quickly, too: by 2050, 70 percent of the global population will live in cities and towns. Sustainable urban development is crucial, therefore, for ensuring the quality of life of the world’s people. Forests and trees in urban and peri-urban environments, if properly managed, can make important contributions to the planning, design and management of sustainable, resilient landscapes. [more]


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Expert interviews

Innovative urban forestry practices for greener and heathier cities 11 April 2018 Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and designer of the “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy, explains the integration of new vertical urban forestry practices with more conventional horizontal approaches in a global effort to make cities greener and healthier places to live. [more]
Planting forests and trees: a British national health “green prescription” 10 April 2018 Rachel Stancliffe of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Oxford, UK, talks about an innovative programme associated with the British national health service, using the natural environment for health benefits. [more]
Urban and peri-urban forests and green spaces and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Tree Talk 9 April 2018 In this Tree Talk, Fabio Salbitano, Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology, Applied Silviculture, Forest and Landscape Restoration and Urban Forestry at the University of Florence explains that urban forests and green spaces can make important contributions towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). [more]


Press releases

A Great Green Wall for Cities The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Director-General Qu Dongyu today announced the Great Green Wall for Cities initiative that aims to support nature-based solutions to climate change. [more]
Treasuring trees to make cities greener and healthier Forests and green spaces can help create more resilient and sustainable cities, and address the challenges of an increasing urban population, is the message FAO delivered today to participants of the first World Forum on Urban Forests. [more]
Asia-Pacific action plan to promote urban forests’ role in achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals Urbanforests — the trees and woodlands in urban areas — are key to making Asia-Pacific cities greener, healthier, happier and more resilient to climate change, an FAO co-sponsored regional meeting heard today. [more]
Asia-Pacific looks at greening cities to improve lives and livelihoods There is huge potential for an increase in urban forests, trees and green areas to counteract the negative effects of rapid urbanization and improve livelihoods in the major cities of Asia and the Pacific, a regional meeting on urban forestry heard today. [more]


More press releases


International Day of Forests - Making cities greener, healthier, happier places to live
Greening cities can greatly improve the Indian urban life and contribute to climate change mitigation


last updated:  Monday, January 6, 2020