Urban Forest and Green Carbon

As the global climate crisis worsens, the international community is stepping up efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve carbon neutrality. And urban forests are emerging as a major policy in many countries.

An urban forest refers to a forest or park green space growing within regions influenced by human habitation, serving as one of the “green carbon sinks” that absorb carbon within terrestrial ecosystems. Well-known examples include Seoul Forest in Seoul, South Korea and Vienna Woods in Vienna, Austria.

The importance of urban forests is gaining recognition as a vital tool for achieving carbon neutrality within cities. Consequently, efforts to create urban forests are increasing internationally.

In 2018, more than 600 environmental experts from 70 countries around the world gathered in Mantua, Italy, for the 1st World Forum on Urban Forests [WFUF]. They discussed the goals they want to achieve through urban forests, and drew an encouraging result. Built on the success of its first forum, the 2nd WFUF was convened in Washington DC, U.S., in October 2023, marking the largest-ever of its kind.

On the theme, “Greener, Healthier and Happier Cities for All,” it served as a conversational platform for urban forest experts to exchange knowledge on advancing sustainable and resilient urban development, as well as harnessing the potential of urban forests. Additionally, discussions on future WFUFs underscored the commitment to enhancing urban forests worldwide.

At the same time, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe [UNECE] is cooperating with its Informal Expert Network on Urban Nature, and the International Forestry Students’ Association [IFSA] for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, assessing how they can plan and enhance urban trees and forest cover. The international community is committed to achieving carbon neutrality through urban forests in various ways.

ASEZ Green Carbon Activities

According to the European Green Deal, the EU’s goal by 2030 is to plant an additional 3 billion trees and increase the resilience and biodiversity of existing forest ecosystems. To achieve this goal, the EU and its member states are implementing various policies and initiatives to support forest restoration.

Furthermore, as part of extensive efforts to combat climate change and address biodiversity loss, the EU has set a goal for carbon neutrality by 2050. It stated that the achievement of this goal depends on the proactive climate actions of both state and non-state actors. Additionally, it highlighted that considering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which target the preservation of biodiversity and climate action, the role of forests should be redefined and included accordingly.

Recognizing the seriousness of climate change, the expanded role of forests, and the importance of active climate actions by non-state actors, ASEZ is carrying out AGC activities worldwide. AGC is an acronym for ASEZ Green Carbon, ASEZ’s major climate change response initiative. The initiative aims to contribute to carbon neutrality by conserving terrestrial ecosystems such as trees, forests, and tropical rain forests, which absorb approximately 11 billion tonnes of carbon annually while reducing carbon emissions. Through this initiative, ASEZ is taking the lead in preserving terrestrial ecosystems by removing invasive species and planting native plants.

Based on this initiative, in 2024, ASEZ in the Philippines took the lead in climate change response by organizing a bamboo planting event in partnership with local governments. They planted 100 bamboo saplings and collected 50 bags of waste as part of their initiative. In addition, in March 2023, various AGC activities were held in various countries worldwide such as planting 200 flowers at California State University where the members in North America belong.

We anticipate that ASEZ university students’ proactive climate response, in collaboration with local governments and government agencies in each country, starting from their campuses and extending to society and the country, will accelerate carbon neutrality.