London’s leafy streets and gardens have long been prized for their beauty — and more recently their ability to counteract carbon emissions and improve air quality. But the value of urban trees can also be measured with money.
A new report from Britain’s Office of National Statistics estimates tree cover saved the capital more than 5 billion pounds ($6.56 billion) from 2014 to 2018 through air cooling alone. Additionally, by keeping summer temperatures bearable for workers, trees prevented productivity losses of almost 11 billion pounds. Who said money doesn’t grow on trees? The estimates underline just how vital the role trees play is in making cities comfortable and functional in a warming world — particularly in London. An unusually long, hot summer in 2018 pushed cost savings estimates to their highest level to date.
Part of the study’s purpose is to promote planting trees and maintaining green spaces, according to Hazel Trenbirth, a member of the ONS’ Natural Capital team, which looks at cost savings of greenery across the UK. The research shows that “Britain’s trees have a value that goes far beyond what you can get from chopping them down.” The findings from the ONS echo a 2015 report partly funded by the London Mayor’s office, which found that the city’s 8.4 million trees removed an estimated 2,240 tonnes of pollutants (mostly ozone) from London’s atmosphere annually, a process that would otherwise have cost 126 million pounds.
They sequestered carbon up to a value of 4.79 million pounds and saved the city 2.8 million pounds by alleviating stormwater run-off. Hopefully, these studied economic benefits remind authorities and businesses that a workplace surrounded by trees, located in a well-planted city, ultimately helps look after their bottom line.