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Record breaking Parisian summer exposes lack of trees in capital

Record breaking Parisian summer exposes lack of trees in capital
A customer reaches down to pick up a bottle of water from a street vendor in Paris on June 17, 2022. Photo: Stefano RELLANDINI/AFP

Paris ranks poorly compared with other major cities when it comes to 'green cover' provided by trees, and record-breaking heatwaves are bringing this to light.

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According to figures from the World Cities Culture Forum, just 10 percent of Paris is considered green space.

That number pales in comparison with other major capitals, and is nowhere near cities such as London, on 33 percent, or Oslo, where a staggering 68 percent of the city is made up of green space like parks and gardens.

While this may be old news for many Parisians, this summer's record breaking heatwaves are really bringing the point home. The asphalt outside Paris' Garnier Opera house, for example, recently reached 56C, and Parisians have little shade or green space in which to avoid the heat.

And the scorching temperatures have affected the whole of France. At the peak of the June heatwave, a village in southern France in June recorded the country's first ever 46 degree temperature, and cities across the country are braced for further scorching temperatures, with 26 départements currently placed on heatwave alert at the ‘orange’ level.

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READ ALSO: Heat alerts: What temperatures can we expect in France this week?

According to France's national weather agency, Meteo France, last month was the hottest July on record, and for those who were in capital, the sweltering temperatures laid bare not only Paris's lack of shade but its need for natural defences against global warming.

With little shade and green space to shelter in, Parisians are feeling the full brunt of the heat.

Paris City Hall has outlined plans to plant 170,000 trees by 2026 and fill the city with "islands of freshness", however the green plans have provoked some protests and opposition. Environmental campaigners say local authorities have felled decades-old trees to clear the way for garden spaces.

In the longer term, however, cutting down older trees contradicts the authorities' own ambitions as saplings are weaker in the face of drought and less useful in fighting temperature radiation, according to activists.

Urban planners claim that Paris cannot confront record temperatures and climate change more broadly without cutting down some trees.

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Anonymous 2022/08/06 17:12
It's true that the number of green spaces is low, but Paris' low proportion of green cover is the corollary of housing density. In many cases the high density in Paris has positive outcomes .. lower requirement for private cars (nb. I said requirement, not ownership), easier more cost-effective use of shared resources (also more densely distributed) such as electric car charging points, shared bikes etc. Higher proportions of the population can be easily affected by city-wide actions on, eg public transport. The 15-minute city is massively easier to implement in hgh density cities. Dense housing=distances to all services ..boulangeries, schools, services etc are low. In a thread on Paris pedestrian-only school streets, one American asked how the buses managed. Answer: schools are local, *everyone* walks there. Yes, Paris is hot, but the city is actively looking at addressing this with the dedicated (dedicated=focussed rather than working hard :) Paris at 50*C group.

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