Government agrees to plant 450,000 urban trees to combat rising heat

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The cabinet on Sunday approved an ambitious plan to plant 450,000 trees in urban areas to provide shade and help cool temperatures as climate change takes hold.

The goal is to be achieved by 2040 and will cost around 2.25 billion shekels ($716 million). The trees will be planted along some 30,000 kilometers (18,640 miles) of road, at the rate of approximately 150 trees per kilometre.

The plan was presented to the cabinet by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer.

“The Israeli government has made the climate a national goal,” Bennett said. “More than 90% of the country’s people live in urban communities, and the warmer the climate becomes, the more difficult it will be to move outside.

“That’s why we are preparing to plant about half a million trees along all the roads of the cities we pass through.”

Shade from trees significantly improves temperature conditions on the street, while helping to improve air quality and absorb heavy rains, he added.

Ultra-Orthodox families picnic in the shade of trees at Sacher Park in Jerusalem during their summer vacation, July 26, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Zandberg said cities needed more shade, trees and nature-based solutions to deal with climate change, and it was time for the government to make a decision that would ensure urban planning adapts to changing climatic conditions.

Forer said the plan would achieve a dual goal: protecting the environment and improving urban space.

The decision is based on the report of an inter-ministerial committee which met for a year under the leadership of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s office. In addition to government departments, the committee also included representatives from NGOs and the Planning and Construction Council.

Mature trees are supported by a concrete casing at a construction site in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 12, 2013. (Zuzana Janku/Flash90)

Next steps will include mapping current tree cover in cities and towns, encouraging local authorities to create climate change plans that include planting urban trees, securing necessary funds, creating a user-friendly digital platform that will make public – among other things – requests for tree felling and updating green building regulations to take into account existing trees and opportunities to plant more.

One of the goals is to have 100 local authorities with urban forestry plans by 2030.

The ministries concerned must work together on a funding proposal for the 2023-2024 budget.

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