Milan is taking important steps to address environmental challenges. The city is a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the global network ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. One of the most ambitious climate adaptation actions is the ForestaMI urban forestry project, launched in 2018 as a research lead by Politecnico di Milano. Promoted by the Metropolitan City of Milan, the Municipality of Milan, the Region of Lombardy and other regional and local entities and partners, the project aims to plant a grand total of 3 million trees in the Greater Milan area by 2030.
To achieve this ambitious objective, ForestaMI plans to multiply the number of plants on streets, squares, courtyards, roofs, facades, parks, and agricultural land, increase the tree cover ratio, increase the tree canopy cover by 5%, connect green areas through green infrastructure and foster collaboration among the public and private sectors, as well as the involvement of citizens. These actions have the potential to significantly reduce air pollution, reduce water runoff, decrease the energy consumption demand of buildings, and increase the wellbeing of residents.
Through the website of the project, www.forestami.org, companies, associations, and citizens can donate funds to the project and citizens can get directly involved in planting activities throughout the year. It also includes an interactive map where anyone can look at detailed information on the current state of the project across the Greater Milan area. From 2018 to 2020 the project was mostly dedicated to research activities to map the green areas and forestation potential in Greater Milan, define strategies, build relationships with local administrations and stakeholders, and implement pilot projects. To this date, 281,160 trees have been planted.
However, the ForestaMi program should not be intended only as an achievement of a numerical target, but as a strategy that is working through a structured path, oriented to the maximum benefit for the environment and citizens, which will make the metropolitan city of Milan not only greener but also more resilient to future environmental threats.
ForestaMI program is in fact part of the vision of important planning documents of the administration, which envisions the Milan of the future as a greener, adaptive, fresh, and livable city. Through the City Masterplan Milano 2030 – Piano di Governo del Territorio – the city wants to give itself a green footprint, cutting land use to zero, enhancing its green and blue infrastructure and increasing its resilience in the face of changes impacting the urban ecosystem. The City Masterplan identifies new parks, green linear infrastructures, areas to be de-paved and converted to permeable and green areas, all real opportunities in which ForestaMI's forestry activities are, and will be, fully implemented.
Likewise, one of the targets of the Air and Climate Plan is the containment of temperature increase within 2°C by 2050. In a highly densified territory such as the city of Milan, and in general across Italian cities, the issue of reclaiming public space by vegetation is particularly relevant for the purposes of urban cooling. Within the goal of a “Cooler Milan”, the Air and Climate Plan identifies actions and additional areas to increase urban green coverage, such as roofs, parking, and schoolyards.
A complementary and synergistic activity to urban forestry is the re-naturalization of the urban impermeable surface, especially in the central areas of the city. For this reason, the Municipality is working on the construction of a structured and long-term De-paving Program, that can accompany forestry and at the same time increase the ecological, social, and structural qualities of public spaces. The Municipality's objective is, to green the city through the conversion of grey impermeable areas into green zones, adapting inhospitable spaces to ecological and social functions through the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions.
Planting, urban forestry and de-paving are now the tools that the Administration puts in place in the process of regeneration of the city, transforming courtyards, streets, squares, rooftops into healthy, fresh, quality, living spaces.
The Program also aims to increase the active involvement of citizens and, in line with this objective, ForestaMI is following two main lines of communication and dissemination. The first on its ecosystem of channels, including website and social media, to disseminate the initiative, inform citizens of the objectives and opportunities and especially involve them in the process. In parallel, the project also relies on the channels of the City of Milan and, specifically, in the communication campaign of the ecological transition - Milano MIX. The campaign, launched in the fall of 2020, supports the dissemination of strategies, objectives, and specific actions of the administration in the field of sustainability.
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