London Climate Action Week 2023

27 June 2023 10 minute read

Pexels emilio aguilar 15465374

June 24th marks the start of London Climate Action Week, dedicated to creating space to present the actions that the city of London is taking to tackle climate change. London plays a key role in the global climate debate, and as a city with net zero by 2030 ambitions, London is on its own journey towards becoming a green and inclusive city.

The themes of this year’s London Climate Action Week are:

  1. Accelerating the global clean economy
  2. Delivering fair inclusive and just climate transitions
  3. Expanding networks for Whole of Society Action
  4. Creating a greener London with and for Londoners

As a London-based environmental charity, Trees for Cities have been investing in nature-based solutions and have increased climate resilience in urban areas for 30 years now! So, what better time to take a dive into some of our London-based projects to see how they are helping to bring well-needed urban greenery to the city, and supporting some of the above key climate action themes.

277990286 348982923936377 7374371905125628612 n
All the action from our community planting day on the Malmesbury Estate!

Greening Tower Hamlets

Trees for Cities has a long-standing relationship with Tower Hamlets Council and the borough’s residents. Tower Hamlets is a key target area of ours and has one of the lowest tree canopy cover densities across all of London. That’s why we are always keen to help green the area in any way we can and by doing what we do best – planting urban trees! We believe that everyone, no matter where you live, deserves access to green space and we are committed to closing this environmental inequality gap and will continue working in areas of greatest social and environmental need.

Most recently, we have helped plant hundreds of urban trees across Tower Hamlets in locations such as Victoria Park, Bethnal Green Gardens, Weavers Fields, Furze Green, and the Malmesbury Estate. Aside from the visual impact urban trees bring, they can significantly improve the local area and tackle the effects already felt by climate change through filtering poor air quality, providing shade, and supporting the management of localised flooding.



The urban greenery that we have planted across the borough is also providing new wildlife habitats in the area for threatened species highlighted in the borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan, such as bats, hedgehogs, wild bees, amphibians, and Brimstone butterflies. Where possible, we have also started to use an all-natural planting spec, using untreated, locally sourced, coppiced chestnut timber for the cages which will support ladybirds, earwigs, solitary bees, and potentially stag beetles. Check out some of our trees at the Malmesbury Estate we planted with Wilder Communities to see this in action!

It’s important to highlight that our work to green the area wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Tower Hamlets community. We worked with local community groups, school children, residents, and businesses to transform many of the borough’s concrete landscapes into greener, healthier areas to live. We create a greener London with and for Londoners by involving local people in the projects to ensure the planting designs and types of trees are right for the community and host community planting days to get stuck in with the action. In fact, we won the 2022 Community Tree Award for our work at Furze Green with the local community!

Learning zone
The new Learning Zone at Grange Primary - a healthy place for pupils to play and learn outdoors.​​

Planting Healthy Air in Southwark

Our Planting Healthy Air project was developed to address London’s poor air quality and the detrimental effects this has, particularly on children. The capital’s trees remove an estimated 2,241 tonnes of pollution each year, making them a particularly effective barrier to the flow of toxic air.

We recently worked with Grange Primary School in Southwark, a school located in a high density urban area with high economic, social, and environmental deprivation. The pupils didn’t have a healthy environment for active play and learning, which drove our determination to transform the school’s play area into a healthier, green space for all.

We were able to transform three areas of the playground by planting five trees and 180 square metres of shrubs and perennials. We also made use of elements such as stepping stumps, balance poles, climbing ropes, and a willow tunnel to create a space where children feel inspired to be active. This work provided the perfect opportunity to look into how effective green infrastructure, outdoor classrooms, and natural play areas were in reducing the effects of poor air quality.

Once the playground had been transformed, Social Value Innovation Partnership, Lancaster University, and the Trees for Cities Impact team evaluated the data collected throughout the project and saw immediate positive outcomes! High levels of pollution were detected near the school gates but lower pollution was found around the areas where pupils were encouraged to spend their time through the intervention. Pupils and teachers also demonstrated and reported an increase in levels of awareness around the local sources, problems, and solutions to air pollution. This intervention allowed the opportunity for pupils to learn about some of the results that climate change can have on their local area, and how urban trees can contribute to mitigating some of these effects.

Racecourse 2
Tree planting at the Racecourse Estate in Ealing

Growing a Greener Estate in Ealing

Trees for Cities first started working at Racecourse Estate in Ealing 10 years ago by planting 10,000 woodland trees in Northolt Park! Since then, we've run a multi-year greening project across the entire estate from 2019 to 2023 as part of our Strategic Partnership with Ealing Council and funding from National Lottery Community Fund. Northolt is also within the top 20% of most deprived areas in England, and so by bringing urban trees to the area, we are able to support an inclusive climate transition.

To allow local Londoners the opportunity to get involved and take climate action, we reached out to a diverse range of groups in the local community to help create a green space that met their needs. This included community groups, schools and nurseries, scouting groups, the fire brigade, local faith communities and individual residents on the estate We consulted on designs, gathered feedback, and created ideas collaboratively so that we could create a beautiful space that would ultimately be enjoyed for generations to come, and help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis in that area.

Our community tree planting events with local residents saw 89 larger trees planted to bring immediate impact and benefits to the estate, and a further 825 young whip trees that will continue to grow over the years. We also brought urban greenery to the estate by planting a whopping 17,200 bulbs! These have provided beautiful seasonal colour, as well as providing a source of food for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

TFC Ealing Tree Festival 060
5 Boroughs in London are now Tree Cities of the World

London’s Tree Cities of the World

The Trees Cities of the World initiative was created by The Arbor Day Foundation and The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is a global effort to recognise cities and towns committed to ensuring that their urban forests and trees are properly maintained, sustainably managed, and duly celebrated. Trees for Cities leads the promotion of Tree Cities of the World in the UK, and we have been encouraging and supporting councils across London and the rest of the UK to achieve the award.

In April 2023, 5 London Councils were recognised as Tree Cities of the World! The councils are:

  • London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
  • London Borough of Camden
  • London Borough of Ealing
  • London Borough of Redbridge
  • London Borough of Tower Hamlets

To earn this recognition, each Council has pledged their commitment by meeting five programme standards that show their dedication and determination towards planting and conserving trees for a greener future and to help tackle the effects of the climate crisis.

Pexels chris j mitchell 1528361

Working in Partnership

In addition to the above projects, we also hold strategic partnerships with other councils across London, such as the boroughs of Redbridge and Hillingdon. As well as bringing local communities together, the planting projects will have a sustained impact on the local environment and lasting benefits to the people who live and work in London.

Trees for Cities extends our work outside of London to contribute to global climate action. For example, we have been supporting the Clyde Climate Forest planting initiative in Glasgow, which aims to see 18 million new trees planted! Through extensive mapping exercises, the locations for where the new urban trees are to be planted have been identified as target areas that are vulnerable to climate change related issues, such as the urban heat island effect and localised flooding. By planting more trees in these neighbourhoods, we are ensuring that these areas are more climate resilient.

London Climate Action Week is the perfect time to celebrate the innovation that has taken place across the world to improve climate resilience in urban areas. It is also a time of reflection and to consider what else must be done to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis that are already being felt.

At Trees for Cities, we will continue to plant, protect, and promote urban trees both across the UK and internationally, and engage with local communities to join us in the fight against the climate crisis. As is often said, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is to plant now. So, let’s get to planting and protecting more pollutant-absorbing, shade-making, health-boosting trees! You can help support us in our mission by either making a donation or getting involved with a local Trees for Cities project!

Donate to Trees for Cities and together we can help cities grow into greener, cleaner and healthier places for people to live and work worldwide.