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Daring Cities across the globe: Webinar addresses the role of local governments for Urban Forestry

European Forest Institute (EFI) Bonn was hosting the final @BonnGlobal Daring Cities webinar series on Tuesday October 27th under the motto: “Forests– Multifunctional Solutions for Resilient Cities”. The session presented a broad variety of ecosystem services urban forests provide to cities and their inhabitants in four world regions. Therefore, the webinar took the participants on a tour around the globe by introducing different forest-related activities (from Bonn to Barcelona, Vancouver, Beijing and back to Gelsenkirchen) and showcasing examples of how local governments work together on urban forestry. The @BonnGlobal webinar series was designed jointly by ICLEI and the City of Bonn aiming to showcase the work coming out of Bonn that is feeding into global climate and sustainability debates.The series of early morning webinars (8-8.00 CET) was hosted by local institutions and non-governmental organizations from the sustainable sector and concluded this week.

The session on “Forests– Multifunctional Solutions for Resilient Cities” was moderated by Georg Winkel, Head of EFI’s Bonn Office. It emphasized the role urban forests play in addressing environmental, economic, and social challenges not only, but in particular for local governments.

Starting with an EFI Bonn initiative, Gesche Schifferdecker introduced the “Bonn Forest Talks” (Bonner Waldgespräche) in the context of Bonn being European Forest City 2020: A series of mixed events (from Radio sessions to forest walks to virtual presentations and discussions), organized in collaboration with academic and international organizations, NGOs and forest practitioners based in Bonn to address the values of local forests in a global context.

In the following, Rik de Vreese presented CLEARING HOUSE, the first Sino-European research project on urban forests (find out more about the project here). Rik as CLEARING HOUSE project manager introduced some of the most important project tasks: From surveying societal perceptions and demands towards Urban Forests as nature-based solutions (UF-NBS) in Europe and China, to analyzing the respective policy frameworks in both world regions to experimenting with elements of citizen science, co-design and co-learning with stakeholders and decision-makers and developing user-friendly UF-NBS tools (e.g. guidelines for practitioners). Rik stressed that in urban areas, existing policies and practices for the governance, management as well as conservation of trees and forests will need to change to deliver the new role for urban trees.

Georg then introduced the speakers of the next “interventions”, presenting different perspectives on the role of Urban Forests for resilient cities. Eugenia Vidal Casanovas, an architect working for Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (and one of the CLEARING HOUSE partners in Spain), highlighted the importance of forest ecosystem services for Barcelona, focussing on biodiversity enhancement and the role of urban green spaces for human health and recreation.

The interventions took the participants on a tour around the globe.

Prof. Cheng Wang, from the Academy of Forestry (CAF) in Beijing addressed the role of urban forestry for Chinese mega cities. More than 300 cities in China are implementing urban forestry programs – but many initiatives focus on plantation forests, that are less resilient and sustainable than mixed forests. Together with EFI, CAF is CLEARING HOUSE coordination partner, providing important input from Chinese cities while gathering inspiration from diverse European approaches to urban forestry.  

From Barcelona to Beijing, the participants were taken on a (virtual) journey to Vancouver. Prof. Cecil Konijendijk informed about the benefits of urban forestry for Vancouver and a recently established initiative to educate “Green Leaders”. It is easily forget that Canada, despite its beautiful nature and wildlife is also quite urbanized, so naturally Urban Forestry plays an important role in Canada and is mostly addressed by local governments. Vancouver has an ambitious Urban Forestry strategy. Among other initiatives, the University of British Columbia recently launched a Master Programme called Urban Forestry Leadership.

The last intervention brought the audience back to Germany, to CLEARING HOUSE partner Gelsenkirchen. Norman Rudgalwis introduced the City’s approach to education for sustainable development and the role of urban green spaces (for more information see also this article) Recent developments, mostly Covid-19, affect the perception of urban forests. Consequences of the pandemic might lead to more consideration of implementing greenspaces in populated areas and urban planning. Nonetheless, the increased demand for green spaces also creates conflicts that need to be addressed among all stakeholders involved – from city administration to forest service to society.

Sustainable Development has many different aspects.

After these inspiring inputs from around the globe, the audience was invited to ask questions so that the regular webinar time was slightly exceeded before everyone got a cup of coffee (at least in this part of the world to start off their day after this engaging morning session).

A massive thanks to the speakers as well as the participants for joining and contributing to that webinar. A special thanks to the City of Bonn, the European Forest City 2020, and ICLEI for this great facilitation and organization. This session as well as the previous ones will be uploaded shortly and can be watched here: (Please note that a quick registration is necessary to access the recordings.)

More info about Daring Cities here:

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