Mayor of London unveils £3.1 urban tree planting funding package

The Mayor of London has pledged a further £3.1m to support tree planting across the capital, in bid to boost vital canopy cover and sun shade for citizens, support urban wildlife and biodiversity, reduce flood risk, and help combat absorb climate change by storing carbon.

The “massive” tree planting package is aimed at protecting and future-proofing London against the worsening impacts of climate change, and comes in response to the record-breaking 40C temperatures across England which led to a spate of devastating fires across the last week .

The heatwave and subsequent blazes prompted London Fire Brigade to declare a major incident, and City Hall warned that the city remains at immediate risk of wildfires thanks to tinder dry grass, high temperatures and a lack of rainfall this summer.

But the Mayor’s office said that increasing tree cover in the city could help combat the ‘urban heat island’ effect that results from the sun’s rays being absorbed by hard surfaces instead of trees, plants and grass, thereby helping to cool the city and make London more resilient to flooding.

At present, London’s existing trees are estimated to provide at least £133m of benefits each year, such as through improving air quality, encouraging more people to walk and cycle, reducing flood risk, combatting climate change, and providing a vital habitat for wildlife, according to City Hall.

And it said the new funding package announced today would be targeted in areas where there are low numbers of existing trees, and where Londoners are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

City Hall research has found that areas of London with black, Asian and minority ethnic populations of more than 50 per cent are more likely to face the highest climate risks in the capital, such as flooding, air pollution, heat risk and limited access to green space.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the extreme temperatures and fires that raged across the capital last week. “laid bare how vulnerable London is to the effects of climate change”.

“The climate emergency is the biggest global threat we face today and we know that it doesn’t impact all Londoners equally, with communities suffering poverty, deprivation and health inequalities more likely to experience the worst effects of flooding, overheating and poor quality air, he added. “As Mayor, I will continue my bold action to preserve and increase tree coverage across the capital as we build a better, greener and more sustainable London for everyone.”

Since 2016, City Hall has funded the planting of over 430,000 trees across London, creating an additional 85 hectares of new accessible green space in the Green Belt, it said.

The fresh funding package includes £800,000 for the Mayor’s Grow Back Greener community grant scheme, a £1m street trees programme, £320,000 for community tree packs for local groups and schools, and £1m for tree planting and woodland creation projects in to create shady areas at high heat risk, according to the Mayor’s office.

The Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville, who is also climate change, transport and environment lead at London Councils, said the city was “already experiencing the serious impacts of climate change”.

“The severe heatwave and fires last week and the devastating flash flooding last year are just two examples that prove the time for action is now,” he said. “More trees in London will contribute to our capital’s climate resilience, especially in areas more vulnerable to climate risk, and will take steps to ensure that London can continue to thrive as a resilient and green city.”

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