From Paris to Jakarta, close to 60 mayors of major cities 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 said.
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.
The declaration reads: as national governments allocate more than US$13 trillion for pandemic-related economic stimulus, nations should invest in climate-friendly natural infrastructure—especially the conservation and restoration of forests—which can create large-scale employment, boost public health, and build resilience against future shocks.
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.