Freetown experienced tragedy due to deforestation and the associated increased risk of landslides in 2017, when a deadly landslide killed more than 1,000 people and left many more missing. The city has taken action to reduce landslide and flooding risk through the “Freetown the TreeTown” initiative, which aims to increase the city’s green space and vegetation cover. With engagement from the local community, the city will plant, grow and track 1 million trees and restore 3,000 hectares of land, sequestering approximately 69,000 tonnes of CO2.
The initiative uses innovative, disruptive, low-cost digital technology for tree-tracking. It also creates new jobs for women and young people in green sectors, providing eco-friendly alternatives to working in dangerous and environmentally damaging industries like mining. With a growth cycle of 3–5 years, each tree is assigned a unique identification code that can be transformed into “impact tokens”. The tokens can be bought, sold, and traded for carbon offsets, preventing future emissions and further climate damage.
Since 2020, Freetown has planted more than 560,0000 trees in climate-vulnerable areas, covering 578 hectares of urban land and benefiting 300+ communities. The initiative has created over 1,200 jobs, 80% of which have gone to young people, including 44% to women.
This approach is effectively raising community awareness of the importance of reforestation for reducing climate-related disasters. The city recognises that 1 million trees will not meet the challenge of deforestation and climate breakdown in the city. Therefore, an additional 4 million trees will be planted over the next ten years using the #FreetownTheTreeTown community-growing approach.
Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, said: “The impact of climate change is being acutely felt in our communities, with the impact being most severe among the urban poor living in informal settlements, where many of our residents live and work. Thus, it is imperative that we plan, innovate and work together across the city and with national and global support to build inclusive and sustainable pathways to climate adaptation – for all Freetonians!“
Sustainable school menus that reduce food insecurity and offer climate-friendly options
Cities are centres of consumption, but through innovative mechanisms, mayors can make it easier for residents to access healthy and sustainable food and reduce food insecurity in times of economic uncertainty. São Paulo is taking action to mitigate food insecurity, promote behaviour change and reduce its environmental impact through its Sustainable School Menu programme.
In São Paulo, more than 305 tonnes of meat are distributed weekly through 2.5 million daily school lunches; meat served in the city’s schools contributes more than 140,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. In the next eight years, the city will phase down the amount of meat consumed per week in schools, replacing it with nutritious vegetarian meals. The programme will benefit 1 million students enrolled in 4,000 municipal schools, reducing emissions by 22.3%. In addition to decreasing meat consumption, the project raises awareness of food consumption’s health and environmental impacts by monitoring greenhouse gases and tackling food waste in schools.
This awareness shift is not limited to students; the city has trained 443 cooks and nutritionists in sustainable diets, released an accessible virtual cookbook, and online training in cooking techniques is coming soon. The programme promotes local food purchasing, with R $100 million in 2021 spent on purchasing food from more than 4,000 families in the countryside, helping to address rural poverty and stimulate organic and small agriculture production, with related positive climate impacts.
Mayor of São Paulo, Ricardo Nunes, said: “We receive with great joy the recognition of the ‘Sustainable School Menu’ by the C40-Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards. Developing initiatives like this is challenging, but it guarantees significant impacts in the fight against climate change, considering that over one million students attend municipal schools in São Paulo.
“The ‘Sustainable School Menu’ is an example of the importance of combining effective and ambitious climate action with the inclusion of vulnerable groups, promoting healthy food while mitigating environmental impacts.“