Vancouver to plant 100,000 trees to ward off extreme heat

The city has approved a plan to plant 100,000 additional street trees across Vancouver to help protect people from extreme heat.

Two Vancouver city councillors, Christine Boyle and Adrienne Carr, put the motion forward Wednesday. They pointed out that this was a campaign promise of Mayor Ken Sim in 2022 and they want him to make good on it.

The motion was passed following a unanimous vote, Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it’s an excellent and very ambitious target,” explained Boyle, who represents One City Vancouver on council.

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She says as climate change tightens its grip on B.C., this is one solution to help protect people.

“As we see more extreme weather events, and folks felt it in the heat this weekend, trees are one important piece of keeping neighbourhoods healthier, safer and more climate resilient.”

The motion refers to the 2021 heat dome which killed 600 people. Boyle says the trees provide a place for many to seek shade and cool down.

“We know, in particular, those fatalities were in neighbourhoods that had a higher surface temperature. They were largely neighbourhoods that had less tree canopy, and they were also neighbourhoods where people were in older apartment buildings, they were more socially isolated,” she explained.


(Courtesy City of Vancouver)
(Courtesy City of Vancouver)

“So, there’s a whole range of responses we should be putting in place to keep people safe and healthy during extreme weather events and planting trees is one important one.”

Boyle calls the planting of trees an investment for the future.

“A new tree we’re planting this spring won’t make a difference for residents now, but it will make a big difference for residents 10 and 20 years down the road. We currently benefit from the trees that were planted a generation before us.”

She says, at a city level, they’re tracking which neighbourhoods would benefit from this most.

“It includes the Downtown Eastside, and it also includes large areas of South and East Vancouver, where the existing tree canopy is less and is younger than other parts of the city. Certainly, along Knight Street … similarly when you get close to Boundary and along Kingsway, there are fewer street trees than a lot of other neighbourhoods.”


(Courtesy City of Vancouver)
(Courtesy City of Vancouver)

Boyle says the plan may seem straightforward but isn’t as simple as digging a hole and dropping in a tree. The motion stressed the need to weather-proof the trees as much as possible.

“The larger infrastructure concern is actually about building a good container and base for the roots of trees. So, they [can] grow larger and they grow big healthy root systems, which is what we want so they can survive through droughts and high winds,” she said.

“Our city engineering staff have developed better and better techniques for building space for growing root systems … so they’re not affecting nearby buildings or the road surface nearby.”

The planting will also include a revamped plan for rainwater absorption.

Boyle says the motion also has an “Adopt a Street Tree” program, similar to one for catch basins in the winter. That would allow residents to take on the responsibility of watering and caring for the trees during hot weather. She admits she’s not sure how much planting 100,000 trees would cost.

City Hall says the mayor remains committed to planting all these trees.

“So far, we’ve planted 25,000 seedlings in Stanley Park to bring life back to areas affected by the Hemlock Looper outbreak. And since 2023, we’ve planted another 2,379 new trees across our city.”

In a statement to CityNews, the city says crews are trying to identify gaps in the urban areas.

“Right now, our urban forest canopy is at 25 per cent, up from 18 per cent in 2017. Thanks to this awesome progress, we’re setting our sights on hitting 30 per cent by 2050.”

While campaigning for mayor, Sim said ABC Vancouver would plant 100,000 trees within his first term.

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