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The Greening of Paris

By Cem Bektas GEC · 31st March, 2016
Luc Mercelis
Image: Luc Mercelis / Flickr

More than half of the world’s population already live in cities and it is projected that by 2050 this figure will rise to around 70%. The cities alone also account for more than 70% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, demonstrating the importance cities must have in the greening of our planet. COP21 proved to be an influential platform for cities around the world to make their voices heard. As hosts to the 2015 UN climate summit, Paris has found an opportunity to cement its legacy of innovative urban sustainability through a range of initiatives and projects highlighting its inclusive and sustainable urban environment.

In a recent talk at the London School of Economics, Paris’ Deputy Mayor for Environment Célia Blauel described the importance of COP21 for cities around the world, and how hosting the world’s largest climate event helped accelerate the transition to a greener Paris. She explained the growing importance and representation of cities in the recent climate summit, especially after the disappointment of COP20 in Copenhagen. Thanks to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, more than 700 mayors were successfully brought together for COP21. As the largest climate-oriented gathering of mayors to date, COP21 successfully provided a forum for a dynamic discussion of city-level solutions to climate change. Enhanced mitigation, finance, and formal recognition of cities on the agenda were some of the important themes discussed.

Paris: The Ambitious Host

COP21 signalled a new era in climate action, but it also proved to be a suitable platform for Paris to exercise its goals to become a leading example of a sustainable city. Paris has introduced ambitious climate plans and several projects to improve the climate resilience of the city and the wellbeing of its residents. Célia Blauel explained that one of the city’s ambitious objectives is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2020. The 2015 Adaptation Strategy highlighted four key areas for Paris to work on in achieving its climate targets:

  1. Protecting Parisians against extreme climate change events such as heat waves and flooding.
  2. Ensuring water, food and energy supplies – here, the importance of taking back water supplies, and linking water supplies to food supplies is essential.
  3. Living with Climate Change via a more sustainable city planning.
  4. Fostering new lifestyles and boosting inclusion and solidarity.

Paris has recently been effective in launching urban projects which show the potential of the city to address financial, social and environmental issues in progressive forms. In 2014, Mayor Anne Hidalgo launched ‘Reinventing Paris’ – an international competition inviting proposals for innovative urban projects to redevelop 23 sites across the French capital. More than 800 teams from around the world registered their interest and City Hall specifically relaxed its planning rules to encourage participation from smaller organisations. Additionally, the project also encouraged architects and developers to collaborate with start-ups, grassroots organisations, universities and artists. The result of the competition is 23 new projects, which are socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable and economically viable. Consequently, more than one thousand homes will be constructed by 2020, and almost half will be social housing. Another urban project, commissioned by Paris’ City Hall, has been the 2050 Paris Smart City Project, which is exploring innovative ways to reduce the French capital’s GHG emissions by 75% by 2050.

COP21 has created a platform for cities to step up and make their voices heard on the need for ideas to tackle climate change and for the creation of resilient, effective hubs for urban innovation. In its recent hosting role, Paris has taken concrete steps to become the leading example in the inclusive and sustainable city movement. Cities of all shapes and sizes aspiring to be climate leaders should take note.  

For more information on the Reinventing Paris project, please visit their website.

Cem Bektas, Researcher, Green Economy Coalition 

Image credit: "Paris, Tour Eiffel" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Luc Mercelis

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