Plant more trees to protect us from extreme heat, says Friends of the Earth as temperatures soar

28th June 2019

As temperatures soar, Friends of the Earth calls for more trees to protect us from extreme heat

With heat-related health warnings in place across Europe, and temperatures in the UK set to soar today (29.06), Friends of the Earth is calling for increased tree cover to help protect people from the impact of extreme heat and avert climate breakdown.

Green spaces including parks and woodland are known to reduce excessive heat and in towns and cities can help regulate the ‘urban heat island’ effect*. Yet, urban green space in England has declined by 7% in recent years.

Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Climate breakdown risks making heatwaves the norm, which will put more and more lives at risk in the future. Alongside slashing greenhouse gas emissions, we need more trees in our towns and cities to protect us from the impacts of summer heat that is already costing lives right here in the UK.

“It’s not just extreme heat that trees can help to defend us against, but also the heavy rainfall and floods that are a constant threat to many communities. What’s more, trees absorb carbon emissions and help to avert climate breakdown in the first place, but unfortunately government targets for tree planting are nowhere near what we need.”

Find out more about Friends of the Earth’s tree campaign, and sign the petition calling for the government to double tree cover, by


Notes to editors:

  1. *Urban areas are warmer than rural areas because of the urban heat island (UHI) effect caused by a lack of natural soils and vegetation which has been replaced with hard, impervious surfacing which absorbs and re-releases heat. 
    1. As a result, people living in urban areas are particularly at risk of heat-related health effects (‘heat stress’) in warmer conditions and especially during extreme heat, because locally-generated heat exacerbates the effects of regional / nationwide heatwaves.
  2. Urban green space in England alone has declined from 63% in 2001 to 56% in 2016see page 4 of report
  3. A study of a large park in London found night-time air temperatures which were up to 4 °C lower (average 1.1 °C) than those in built-up areas on this type of night and that cooling extended in a non-linear way up to 440 m (average 125 m) from the greenspace
  4. Records of daytime air temperatures in and around 62 urban parks and forests in Leipzig, Germany, found that greenspaces provided cooling approaching 3°C (an average of 0.8 °C for forests and 0.5 °C for parks), extending up to 470 m from their boundaries. In particular, the study found a significantly greater cooling effect of an urban green space when forested than managed more as open parkland
  5. Friends of the Earth wants to double tree cover as part of our fight against climate chaos. Doubling tree cover could remove 10% of UK’s current planet-wrecking emissions annually.
  6. About Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.