Climate change means that we need to invest in expanding the urban shade canopies provided by mature trees. Trees reduce the urban heat island effect, lower air temperatures, improve air, prevent erosion and provide shade. In addition to being a relatively cheap and simple process, trees contribute to the improvement of landscape in various areas as well as mental and physical health. Shading can help reduce energy consumption, slow down global warming and even enhance community interactions.
While afforestation is part of the Israeli culture, scant attention is paid to urban (or ‘street’) trees, whose numerous values are often overlooked by municipal leaders, planners, engineers and architects, as well as ecologists.
Public open spaces in urban areas, particularly in newer neighborhoods, lack the ‘islands of shade’ our children need in parks and playgrounds and school yards.
The World Economic Forum has surveyed ‘green canopies’ in some of the world’s main urban centers; they report that Tel Aviv has a respectable (but still insufficient) 17.5% green coverage.
We have assisted dozen of communities seeking to protect existing trees from roadbuilders’ and developers’ bulldozers. Adam Teva V’Din recently drafted a legislative bill, shortly to be presented in the new, 36th Knesset. The bill seeks to better protect all trees and to accelerate planting of trees in the hottest points in the country – urban areas and neighborhoods.
The bill will address both protection of existing trees and encourage planting of new trees: • Amend and improve Forest Ordinances to increase transparency regarding plans and resection licenses that may endanger precious trees. • Provide mechanisms for encouraging municipal leaders to survey, measure and assess trees that provide the current green canopy, and to begin a tree-planting strategy to increase every town’s tree coverage to 40% of the total urban area within 20 years.