Thethird ‘’Asia-Pacific Urban Forestry Meeting (APUFM)’’ kicked off virtually and will last until 29 October 2021. The event is organized by FAO with the support of UNEP, UN-Habitat, IUCN, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. Over 450 technical experts, scientists, practitioners, policy makers, NGOs, international organizations and other stakeholders have registered for the event. The participants will share experiences and innovations in urban forestry and identify concrete actions and collaboration opportunities to expedite the implementation of the Seoul Action Plan.
Over 50 percent of the global population lives in cities today and over 67 percent of the population in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to live in cities by 2050. “Sustainable models of urban growth and well-organized development are needed to meet the needs of the urban residents for ecosystem services and their desires to connect with nature” – said Sheila Wertz-Kanounnikoff, Senior Forestry Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in her opening remarks.
Vallop Suwandee, Chairman of Advisors to the Governor of Bangkok in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, highlighted the importance of perspectives, experiences and collective solutions to the challenges faced in urban forestry development. Mozaharul Alam, Regional Coordinator in the Asia and the Pacific Office of UNEP mentioned the need of cost-effective strategies to build resilient urban communities. ‘In the Asia-Pacific countries, forestry is a key sector to reduce the vulnerability against the adverse effect of climate change, sequestering of the carbon, enhancing the resilience of the community and increasing the urban biodiversity’, he added.
“In addition to mitigation and adaptation to climate change on the global scale, urban forestry has become more critical to mitigate the impact of global heating and heat island effect, the impact of extreme events and natural disasters, air, water, soil, pollution, provide green and healthy environment and above all, enhance livability of cities”, said Atsushi Koresawa, UN-Habitat Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. Dindo Campilan, IUCN’s Regional Director for Asia and Hub Director for Oceania highlighted its growing partnership with local government units in nature conservation; IUCN is expanding its Union membership from national to subnational government entities, to further strengthen IUCN engagement with and support to cities such as for urban forestry.
The moderator of the webinar Simone Borelli, Urban Forestry Officer in FAO mentioned that ‘Urbanization will have an impact on all urban settlements regardless of their size and it is important to plan today for the cities of tomorrow.’ Illias Animon, Regional Forestry Officer in FAO explained the need of sharpened focus for achieving the eight goals of the Seoul Action Plan for providing a good quality of life to city dwellers. Thematic sessions are organized around the eight goals of the Seoul Action Plan in this view.
Thematic sessions on greener and cleaner cities
Participants contributed to the discussions on greener cities and cleaner cities. Stephen Livesley from the University of Melbourne moderated the greener cities session displaying tiny forests of Australia, urban forestry development in Bhutan, green walls of Australia, nature-based solutions in China, and mapping of urban forest changes in Australia. “Opportunities to quantify ecosystem services should be focused and the urban planning community must be strengthened,” said Stephen Livesley. Wendy Chen from the University of Hong Kong moderated the cleaner cities session with diverse cases, including Aerosol Monitoring Platform in the Republic of Korea, ecosystem services in the urban areas of China as well as reclamation of environment quality and cleaner air for allergic people. “A synergistic combination of benefits and a balance between the beneficial and detrimental aspects of vegetation are important”, she highlighted.
Participants will continue to discuss how best to adopt urban and peri-urban forests and green infrastructure as strategic components of the sustainable future and as essential elements in providing a good quality of life for the citizens, especially while building back better. In addition to the eight thematic discussions, a Mayors’ roundtable and a discussion with donors will be held. A virtual field trip will also be organized on the last day of the event to showcase success stories from Bangkok, the host city of this event.
Urban Forests in the context of other goals
Urban forest and green spaces are key components for sustainable and resilient urban development. They contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 15 (Life on Land); SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda. However, the potential contributions of urban forests in terms of livelihood and well-being continue to be often undervalued and unrecognized. Urban forestry is also one of the pillars of the initiative launched by FAO called Green Cities Initiative, which focuses on rural-urban synergies, social inclusion, resilience and sustainability.