Madrid creates urban forest to combat climate change

by Deborah Cater
Madrid is creating an urban forest. Image: wikimedia

To combat climate change and air pollution, Madrid is building a green wall of trees around the city. The urban forest is to be 75 kilometres in size with almost half a million new trees.

As desertification reaches Southern Europe, Madrid City Council is looking to deploy an urban forest as both a mitigation and adaptation measure for climate change. “We want to improve air quality throughout the city,” said Mariano Fuentes, Madrid City Councillor for Environment and Urban Development. “To combat the ‘heat island’ effect that is occurring in the city, to absorb the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the city and to reconcile all green areas with trees that already exist in and around the city to connect.”

Forest of native trees

The project will also utilise wasteland between roads and buildings to help absorb 175,000 tons of CO2 per year. When completed, Madrid’s ‘green wall’ will be a forest of native trees that will also absorb the heat generated by human activity. Temperatures under the shade of these trees are 2 degrees lower than in the rest of the city.

Madrid’s urban forest is part of a 360-degree approach which aims to make cities more environmentally friendly, by doing more than just limiting the use of private cars in urban centres, Fuentes said. The urban forest will connect the protected natural areas of El Pardo, in the north of the city, with the lower reaches of the rivers Manzanares and Jarama, in the southeast. The project covers 14,200 hectares and will plant up to 450,000 trees of native species.

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Citizens involved in new green culture

“It has to be a global strategy,” Fuentes added. “It’s not just about cars, but also a pedestrian strategy, creating environmental corridors in every district… and most importantly… involving the citizens in this new green culture. It is essential that every city faces the future in the best conditions.”

Requires as little maintenance as possible

According to architect and city consultant Daniel González, it is not a ‘park’ because it uses native trees and plants that require as little maintenance and irrigation as possible. “Ultimately, such a large infrastructure has to be maintained with minimal effort, because that benefits sustainability.”

Cities both the cause and solution of climate problems

Cities around the world consume two-thirds of the global energy supply and generate three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. They will be most affected by the effects of climate change; but they are also an essential part of the solution. Therefore, many cities have already started taking sustainable transformation measures such as limiting traffic and promoting cycling and public transport. More trees are being planted or people are looking for sustainable energy sources.

It will be another 12 years before the urban forest is ready, but the machine is already moving. They planted the first tree on December 9 in Campo de las Naciones. Just before Christmas the winners of the ideas competition were announced by the city council.

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