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Urban Forests Leading the Charge Against Climate Change

February 16, 2024

Climate change is a reality and no longer a distant threat. Its consequences are already being felt across the globe. Escalating pollution levels, extreme weather conditions and rising temperatures make the urban population vulnerable. The longer we wait and take this lightly, the harder it gets to reverse the effects. With our cities evolving, urban planning should factor in the potential of urban forests to combat climate change.

Urban forests impact climate change in numerous ways. Comprising of four primary components, they add to the green fabric of modern landscapes. Single trees such as in private gardens, lines of trees along a road or pathway, clusters as in parks and natural woodlands or small woods. This nature-based solution is turning into a resilient hero in the climate battle. 

Quoting Ex-minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Prakash Javadekarr, ‘urban forests function as urban lungs and contribute to India's decision to absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the country's forests.’ For climate change reversal, urban forests hold the key as we navigate an uncertain future. 

Here are some compelling reasons to work actively towards expanding such green sanctuaries within our urban landscapes:

Benefits of Urban Forests for Climate Change

Cools urban jungles: Concrete and asphalt in cities absorb and radiate huge amounts of heat leading to localised temperature surges. Trees act as natural air conditioners and help dissipate this urban heat island effect. They provide shade and regulate temperatures, and the cooling effect makes cities more comfortable to live in. 

Promotes biodiversity: Urban forests play a pivotal role in boosting biodiversity in more ways than one. As habitats for a plethora of flora and fauna, they maintain the delicate ecological balance of cities and safeguard the diversity of life in cityscapes. 

Promotes carbon sequestration: The green sanctuaries within urban cities act as carbon sinks to absorb and store the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They convert this into oxygen through photosynthesis, improving the air quality in cities significantly. 

Boosts water management and quality: Urban forests act as a natural filtration system to absorb rainwater. As a result, the urban areas are protected from flooding. Rainwater picks up pollutants such as oil, heavy metals or contaminants from roads or pavements. Root systems of trees and vegetation on the ground help purify this before it reaches other water sources. The tree canopies and forest floors function as sponges to improve the resilience and health of local ecosystems.

Acts as stormwater management systems: Another important effect of urban forests on climate change is to build resilience in the face of adverse climate change events such as intense rainfalls. The green infrastructure is crucial to enhancing water absorption, minimising surface runoff and reducing the burden on stormwater drains. Trees release water vapor into the surrounding environment consequently cooling it. This process of evapotranspiration lessens the strain on urban drainage systems. 

Challenges faced by urban forests

Deforestation and forest degradation currently account for up to a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Forests across the globe are prone to rising temperatures, drought, wildfires, pests and disease. As for urban forests, here are some of the top challenges impacting their effectiveness in countering climate change:

  • Space constraints owing to infrastructure development and urban expansion and fragmented green spaces that affect the connectivity of urban forests.

  • Biotic stressors that compromise the health of urban forests such as pests, diseases and invasive species.

  • Abiotic stressors found in urban environments such as air and soil pollution, heat islands and extreme weather conditions.

  • Inadequate water supply, coupled with soil compaction from construction activities.

  • Lack of species diversity and imbalance in the age structure of trees affects the resilience of urban forests.

  • Limited community awareness and support for urban forest conservation efforts.


Urban planning calls for a forward-thinking and holistic approach to combining grey and green infrastructure. Integrating urban forests for climate change adoption offers cities enhanced resilience and adaptability. These green sanctuaries are key to effectively combat climate change and deal with biodiversity crises. 

Striking a balance between urban development and incorporating green spaces is the need of the hour. Thoughtful planning, favourable policy advocacy and collaboration between environmentalists and urban planners can help us achieve it. It is also important to diversify urban forests and add more sturdy young trees with the capacity to withstand challenges posed by urban environments.

Aligning with our core values, Brigade Group has introduced Urban Forests in our projects to create a positive environmental impact. Check out our film on urban forests where our Managing Director, Pavitra Shankar and Varun Ravindra, Founder of Vanantara, explain the essence and effectiveness of these self-sustaining green spaces and the role they play in fostering a greener tomorrow.

Watch Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1LPyhaTb0s&t=84s


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