São Paulo’s Green Gift

The City of São Paulo has recently declared the acquisition of 32 private green areas as a public utility, equivalent to the size of Paris or 15,500 football fields. With this significant addition, the megalopolis will total 26% of its territory under environmental protection. “Expanding these preservation areas is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our city and future generations,” emphasizes the City of São Paulo Mayor Ricardo Nunes.


“Historic”. That’s how São Paulo Mayor Ricardo Nunes describes the city’s bold move towards environmental preservation. On 21 February 2024, he signed a series of decrees declaring 32 private green areas as a public utility. Combined, they encompass 16,531 hectares, representing 11% of São Paulo’s territory, supplementing 18,280 hectares already under preservation. 

As a result, the city will now have 26% or a quarter of its territory safeguarded under municipal, state, or federal management, which includes parks and indigenous areas with native forests and springs. “This is part of the heritage of São Paulo, eternally preserved for the rest of our lives. There is no experience in the world of what we are doing in terms of sustainability, environmental protection, and addressing climate change”, stated Mayor Nunes.

São Paulo boasts a remarkable “green” status, with over 50% vegetation coverage across its territory; that’s why preserving part of these natural assets is fundamental to the city’s sustainability commitment. To exemplify this, the Mayor notes that the budget allocated to the São Paulo City Hall Environmental Secretariat surged from around USD 55.3 million in 2021 to USD 130,8 million today.

This initiative is framed in the São Paulo Green Capital Program, which promotes environmental preservation actions, urban afforestation, and combating pollution, among other aspects linked to sustainability. It also honors São Paulo’s title as Ibero-American Green Capital, awarded in 2022 by UCCI (Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities), which recognizes the city’s progress in strengthening green areas and urban biodiversity, advancing towards a sustainable future, and aligns with São Paulo’s Action Plan for the Agenda 2030, comprising over 600 actions towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals


Letting environmental value drive conservation

The selected preservation areas were determined through mapping conducted by the City’s Environmental Secretariat as part of its Strategic Master Plan. The technical analysis identified areas with Atlantic forests, streams, and springs of incalculable environmental value. 

Rodrigo Ravena, São Paulo’s Environmental Secretary, highlights the initiative’s benefits, such as job creation, income generation, and risk mitigation through relocating houses and stream containment for a resilient urban landscape.

This initiative is made possible through the Declaration of Public Utility (DUP, from the acronym in Portuguese), which mandates the provision of services—in this case, environmental protection for the entire population, contributing to a greener city. With the publication of the decrees, technical land documents will be prepared to support the acquisition process. 

Subsequently, the Judiciary will execute the acquisition, and the City Hall will compensate the owners. Following this process, the areas become effectively public.


A swift response toward resilience

Other actions by the São Paulo City Hall underscore its commitment to environmental stewardship through enhancing urban resilience. Notable among these initiatives is the planting of nearly 85,000 trees last year. Due to this kind of action, in 2023, São Paulo was honored with the Tree City of the World certificate for the third year in a row. The title was granted by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO/UN).

Additionally, the “Programa Jardim de Chuva” (Rain Gardens Program) focuses on increasing soil permeability, facilitating water flow, and mitigating flooding effects. São Paulo boasts the largest network of these gardens in Latin America, with 320 already established and plans for 400 by year-end. Utilizing recycled materials, especially concrete for underground infiltration mattresses, ensures the sustainability of these gardens both in urban functionality and material usage.

Sao Paulo’s efforts extend to the modern forest fire fighting system recently inaugurated in the Córrego do Bispo Linear Park in the city’s North zone. This system is equipped with cameras, heat sensors, and infrared technology to detect rising temperatures and smoke, activating an alarm and control unit for swift response. Similar systems are slated for installation in the East zone to safeguard other conservation areas within the city.

These efforts highlight São Paulo’s dedication to preserving its green spaces—a gift to its residents and a model for other cities. In the words of Mayor Nunes, “São Paulo sets a remarkable example for Brazil and the world,” he proudly declared.


*This blog was written based on São Paulo City Hall’s press release on the Signature of Public Utility Declaration for the acquisition of new green areas in the city of São Paulo, and the Mayor’s speech during the ceremony last 21 February.

Get ICLEI’s latest urban sustainability news

Similar Posts