London is one of the biggest, busiest cities on Earth. The 2000-year-old metropolis is home to modern skyscrapers, historic architecture, and more than 8.6 million residents spread across 33 boroughs. But if London mayor Sadiq Khan has his way, the UK capital's reputation as a strictly urban center will soon change. As the Independent reports, London has elected to be the world's first-ever National Park City.
The title National Park City may sound like an oxymoron; national parks are often natural areas protected from human development. But a new initiative from the National Park City Foundation called the International Charter for National Park Cities (NPC) aims to apply many of the same qualities of national parks—like well-managed green spaces, clean air, and diverse wildlife—to the world's largest cities.
On Monday, July 22, Mayor Khan announced that London would be the first city to sign on. He said in a tweet: "A cleaner, greener London is central to my vision for our city—and we're taking bold action to ensure people, places are nature are better connected."
The main way city officials plan to achieve that goal is by adding more green space. London is already 33 percent green public space [PDF]. By connecting public parks, adding green roofs to existing buildings, and expanding private backyards and gardens, the city will work to achieve 50 percent green space by 2050. Not only would the new natural areas improve the quality of life of London's residents, but they would also support the city's animal population, which includes 15,000 species today.
London is the first of what the National Park City Foundation hopes will be many cities to join the charter. The goal is to bring 25 cities on board by 2025, with Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Glasgow already in talks to gain National Park City status.