Greening urban environments with trees and bringing nature back can help overcome some of the greatest challenges facing the world’s growing populations.
In 2022, the World Economic Forum published a report looking into the benefits that could be created by changing the relationship between nature and our towns and cities.
The BiodiverCities by 2030 report calls on leaders and populations to play a crucial role in reversing nature loss. It details some startling risks and opportunities arising from the relationship between urban development and nature.
Firstly, the report finds that 44% of global GDP is at risk of disruption from nature loss. Reversing the decline of nature presents a $583 billion investment opportunity in nature-based solutions and preserving undeveloped land. The outcome of such investments is the potential creation of 59 million jobs by 2030 and a total return on investment of $1.5 trillion.
Green space for nature to thrive is a key element of Stockport's new interchange, currently being built
With climate change a reality, one consequence is stifling temperatures, which can be a summer phenomenon or a year-round problem, depending on location. High temperatures in towns and cites are not just a matter of discomfort. Every year, thousands of premature deaths are attributed to excessive urban heat.
A new study in The Lancet medical journal estimated more than a third of these premature deaths could be prevented by planting more trees in cities.
The researchers identified 6,700 premature deaths in 93 European cities that could be attributed to excess summer heat. They then modelled the impact of increasing city tree cover to 30%. The results showed that this level of tree cover across those 93 European cities would prevent 2,644 premature deaths - more than a third of the total.
Creating more shade in cities by planting more trees would reduce the mean temperature by 0.4C, according to the team behind The Lancet report. This would limit the health threats posed by a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Urban heat islands (UHIs) occur when the surfaces of buildings, roads and pavements absorb heat from the sun, pushing up the temperature in cities and other built-up areas.