Tory’s Broken Planting Promise Contributed to Canopy Decline.
Toronto – Gil Penalosa announced today that as Mayor he would expand Toronto’s tree canopy, and ensure that all Toronto neighbourhoods would see additional green, by adopting the innovative ‘3-30-300 rule’ through doubling spending on tree planting. The innovative ‘3-30-300 rule” is an evidence-based goal developed by Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk, UBC Dean of Urban Forestry and Director, Nature Based Solutions Institute, which states that everyone should be able to see at least 3 trees from their home; there should be 30% tree canopy cover in each neighbourhood; and 300 metres should be the maximum distance to the nearest high-quality public green space.
“Trees clean the air, protect us from extreme heat, and can improve our mental health just by looking at them,” said Penalosa. “It is unacceptable that Toronto’s tree canopy is in decline when we know that planting more has so much potential to tackle climate change”
3 Trees visible from your home
Recent research demonstrates the importance of nearby, especially visible, green for mental health and wellbeing. Trees also provide shade to individual homes, lowering temperatures and reducing the need for air conditioning.
30% Tree canopy in your neighbourhood.
Trees improve a neighbourhood’s environment and the well-being of its residents. They play a vital role in directly removing pollutants from the air. Trees also cool the ambient air, reducing urban temperatures by up to 5C. Trees improve physical and mental health by encouraging people to spend more time outdoors and to interact with their neighbours, which in turn promotes mental health. More expansive canopies have also been demonstrated to lower the incidence of insufficient sleep lowered the risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
300m from the nearest park or green space
Many studies have highlighted the importance of proximity and easy access to high-quality green space that can be used for recreation. The percentage of nature within 500m had mental health benefits via increased neighborhood social cohesion and an 86% decrease in the odds of major depressive disorder. Several studies have shown that a walk surrounded by trees provided more of a calming effect than a walk in a ‘concrete’ environment.
Toronto’s tree canopy is in decline
In 2014, the City planted 120,000 trees. When running for Mayor John Tory promised to plant 3.8 million trees in ten years, tripling the number of trees planted annually. He has made zero progress on that goal as last year the City planted the exact same 120,000 trees.
Far from improving, Toronto’s tree canopy peaked at 29.1% in 2014, after which tree cover growth declined to 28.4% in 2018, the most recent year data has been collected. And that number is likely to keep decreasing if positive steps aren’t taken given that the average tree condition has declined across the city, with 69.8% of trees in excellent or good condition in 2018 compared to 81.6% in 2008.
Importantly, the current canopy is not equally distributed. Research shows that poor and racialized communities in Toronto have less access to greenspace in the city, including public parks and tree canopy cover. The City of Toronto, in partnership with the US Forest Service and the University of Vermont, found a great disparity in tree coverage between different neighbourhoods of the city. That study closely mirrors income segregation maps of Toronto.
Gil Penalosa will achieve the 3-30-300 goal by doubling inflation-adjusted spending on tree planting from 2016 levels to $24 million annually. The additional spending would include expanding incentives for home, apartment and business owners to plant on their property, leverage community organizations and volunteers to plant in public spaces, and increase spending to protect from pests such as emerald ash borer.