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Climate Change

Sceptics condemn Paris urban forest project targeting climate change

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants more green spaces for Parisians along the Seine.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants more green spaces for Parisians along the Seine. RFI/Guilherme Monteiro

In an effort to deal with the climate crisis in an urban setting, the city of Paris is looking to make the City of Light greener by creating ‘urban forests’, an ambitious project that not everyone believes is up to the hype.


The strategy promoted by Mayor Anne Hidalgo will create parks and gardens in an effort to lower the overall temperature.

Hidalgo envisages 30 hectares of green space and creating a plantation of 20,000 new trees before 2020.

The first phase of the urban forest will open at the end of the summer, located on an unused train line to create a green belt in the city, similar to the High Line Park, a stretch of green with paths in Manhattan, New York that was built in 2009.

Students will have something to look forward to next Autumn with 28 different school courses on gardening.

According to Paris’ deputy urbanist Jean-Louis Missika, four urban forests are scheduled to open in the course of 2020.

Hot in the city

According to a study carried out by the University of Zurich on 520 big cities around the world, from now until 2050 urban areas located in temperate regions will experience a climate change that would equal their displacement 1,000 kilometres south. Temperature increases will range from 3.5°C to more than 4.7°C.

This summer, the mayor’s office reported that temperature of the street at rue du Louvre in central Paris peaked at 65°C.

The city can create micro-climates by reducing the temperature of the ground, because it is this reflected heat which amplifies the heatwave effect, according to Vincent Viguié, a scientist at the Paris-based International Research Centre on Environment and Development.

Some concrete ideas include creating cool refuges in the city by planting trees behind the Opera Garnier, as well as by planting grass on one of the two riverbanks of the River Seine.

Although a number of projects are currently in the planning stages or in process, the mayor’s office has not released a schedule or a budget for the urban forests.

For Paris mayoral candidate Pierre-Yves Bournazel, who is running for the city’s top job in 2020, urban forests “don’t exist.” “These are only announcements,” he added.

But researcher Viguié believes there are real benefits from lowering temperatures by planting vegetation. The greenery creates shade and refreshes the air around it when it is watered: the water evaporates, creating a cooler environment.

The idea of replacing paved areas with a more natural surface, such as greenery for example, could reduce the heat, as the green colour of the plants and trees absorbs less heat than the black asphalt, said Viguié.

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