Faraway Tropical Forests

We need to protect our global forests


For more information about Faraway Forests, please contact our expert, Sarah Jane Wilson

Forests located far from major cities are vital ecosystems for supporting all life on earth, including our dense urban centers. From the lush Congo basin to remote mountain cloud forests, from the peat forests of Indonesia to the world’s coastal mangroves, “faraway forests” sequester large amounts of carbon; regulate the global water cycle and generate rain for the world’s farms; provide a wealth of useful products including wood, food and medicine; and host the vast majority of the world’s biodiversity on land. These functions are essential for the survival of humans and thousands of other species on our planet.

Faraway forests include some of the world’s most iconic ecosystems, including the tropical forests of central Africa, southeast Asia and the Amazon basin. Supporting up to 500 tree species in a single hectare – and up to 30% of all species on land – the Amazon is also home to millions of indigenous people belonging to thousands of cultural groups who play a key role in its protection. As a global carbon sink, it also acts as a water pump, creating “flying rivers” that transport water through the air from ocean to highlands. The Amazon is the largest intact forest but is only one of many that play a key role in supporting life on earth.

But urban populations are disconnected from these forests, and often unaware of their importance. Forests once covered over 50% of the world’s land area. Today, they cover about 30%, and many remaining forests have and are rapidly losing species diversity. Tropical forests in particular play a key role in regulating climate and conserving biodiversity, but are also cleared at much higher rates than other forests. And consumption in cities is largely responsible: nearly 80% of global deforestation is driven by agriculture – especially beef, soy, and palm oil. Mining, timber, and fossil fuel extraction also drive deforestation and pollute forest habitat. Most of these products are consumed in cities, where residents are unaware of their origins and impact.


Faraway forests sequester vast amounts of carbon and can play a key role in mitigating climate change, which disproportionately affects cities. Together, forest conservation and restoration could sequester up to 30% of global emissions. But forests are often not included in municipal climate change strategies. By investing in forests outside their boundaries, cities could have a much greater impact on global climate change than possible with actions limited to inside their boundaries.

Together, forest conservation and restoration could sequester up to 30% of global emissions.

Tropical forests also support high levels of biodiversity. Global biodiversity can act as a ‘safety net’ for our life-supporting ecological systems. In addition to tangible benefits like new medicines, food, and sustainable timber, biodiverse ecosystems are often more resilient and adaptable – important qualities in the face of climate change. Subtropical forests are also key migration sites for many species found in temperate cities and play an important role in bird biodiversity worldwide.

Finally, faraway forests provide a range of different goods, including tropical hardwoods, medicines, ornamental plants, foods, and so on, and a way to sustainably produce others such as coffee and chocolate that are disproportionately consumed by people in cities around the world.

What Cities4Forests offers

Cities4Forests provides a suite of activities and tools to help meaningfully connect cities to faraway forests around the world. We co-create partnerships, procurement strategies, and urban public awareness campaigns to bring these forests into the hearts and minds of city residents. Our tools and offers include:

1. Forest Footprint Framework

Helping cities understand how much forest they consume – and how to consume less to turn the tide of consumption-based deforestation. The Forest Footprint Dashboard shows total deforestation impacts from commodities such as beef, soy, and palm oil, explains the drivers, and helps cities create goals and raise awareness for mitigation.

2. Procurement Policy Alignment

Providing policy advice and technical assistance for cities to address imported deforestation, with the goal of reaching a “zero deforestation” policy in public procurement. Specifically, we provide guidance on sustainable wood procurement and deforestation free commodity chains for key deforestation commodities including soy, beef, palm oil, and chocolate. We support measures  to increase corporate sustainable forest management and improve global forest conservation efforts while respecting the rights of local indigenous populations and local peoples and their key role in sustaining forests.

3. Partner Forest Program

Helping cities source sustainable forest products, foster student exchange and ecotourism programs, and otherwise connect with a forest of cultural and ecological significance. We connect cities with iconic forests to create tangible links with forest-related products (timber, coffee, cocoa), services (carbon sequestration, climate regulation), experiences (education exchange programs and eco-tourism opportunities) and other natural flows (migratory birds, river and animal movement). Partnerships will provide direct support via public engagement, strategic sourcing, fundraising, and awareness and outreach within cities.

5. Climate Carbon Action

Helping cities explore the potential of voluntary forest carbon credits to improve their emissions profiles while supporting biodiverse forests and engaging forest communities.

5. Public Information Campaigns

Developing campaigns to inform and educate urban residents about the hidden connections of our consumer products to global forests. Campaigns can use public surveys, photo exhibitions, social media and supermarket activations to influence societal behavior patterns to align with conserving and restoring the world’s forests – with the ultimate goal of diminishing imported deforestation to zero.