Greening the City by Tim Boatswain 14 May 2021
Greening urban areas is such an important topic I make no apology for doing another blog.
Just a couple of days ago there was a virtual summit of 40 global leaders, with most making commitments about emissions in response to the climate crisis. Improving the environment across the earth is one of the crucial measures and greening urban areas has a large part to play. Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and are a major culprit of global warming by generating three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Cities, with their large populations and high energy demands, are also especially vulnerable to climate change, so immediate and drastic attention is needed if the crisis is to be solved. Greening urban areas, therefore, must be high on the agenda: a green city reduces air pollution, absorbs dangerous gases, helps water storage, dampens down noise, and cools the atmosphere in warm periods. Greening also improves biodiversity, providing a variety of habitats for different species and is key in the drive for sustainability.
Modern urban planning should also be ensuring that streets cater for pedestrianizes and cyclists and there are mixed-use spaces, importantly green spaces that are designed to be community assets. The Coronavirus pandemic has already stimulated major European cities like Paris, Milan, Lisbon and Barcelona to reduce pollution through greening with extensive tree planting programmes and the introduction of more vegetation: for example, there are policies that now encourage roof planting through economic incentives for a new build to cover half of the roof in vegetation.
I was recently reading an article which mentioned how in the US Chicago’s City Hall has been greened: a roof garden that covers half the roof, over 20,000 feet, with 20,000 plants and over 150 different species. The evidence is clear that roof gardens can not only reduce roof temperatures by 3-4 degrees centigrade but also they can catch rainwater reducing the pressure of run-offs on drains and sewers and thereby avoiding flooding. St Albans City and District Council is now thinking about how to develop the Civic Centre Opportunity Site North, here is a chance to ensure that roof gardens are incorporated into the design brief.
It seems obvious that the country needs to establish radical programmes of greening through urban tree planting, pollinators, green walls and roofs, creating more green spaces and utilising sustainable energy: all are essential components of a response to the dangers of climate crisis. We need to keep the pressure up on our politicians so that ‘greening the city’ is a key part of every manifesto!