Focus on Paris, France

While we’re focusing intently on the COP20 in Lima, we’re also gearing up for the next big event: the COP21 in Paris. The COP21, which constitutes perhaps the biggest opportunity for significant deals on greenhouse gas emissions, will be held at the Le Bourget site from 30 November to 11 December 2015. ICLEI is looking forward to representing the interests of local governments, and is excited to be in Paris! Paris is a wonderful city with a number of outstanding sustainability initiatives.

Sustainable Paris

Vélib' bike in Paris. Photo courtesy of Evan Bench via Flickr.

Vélib’ bike in Paris. Photo courtesy of Evan Bench via Flickr.

The bike-sharing scheme Vélib’ was launched in 2007 and has been a huge success. It has become the sixth-biggest scheme of its kind in the world, with over 20,000 bikes available all day, every day across the city. Residents of Paris can pick up a bike from any of the 1,800+ stations and tour the city, bike along the Seine, or simply get to and from work at low cost and with no negative impact on the environment. Vélib has become a model for other cities, with London’s “Boris Bikes” Cycle Hire Scheme opening in July 2010.

In addition, in 2011 the City of Paris launched a car counterpart called Autolib’. Designed to be simple, practical, eco-friendly and economical, Autolib’ uses a 100% electrical “Bluecar”, which minimizes noise and air pollution. The electric engine, which produces no micro particles or exhaust fumes, allows Paris to contribute to France’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. Subscribers can pick up cars from any of the charging locations around the city, and drop the car off at a station near to their destination.

Paris is also a signatory to the Covenant of Mayors: a European movement in which local and regional authorities voluntarily commit to increasing their energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The Covenant was launched by the European Union in 2008.

Forward thinking

A number of smaller initiatives also demonstrate forward-thinking. In a bid to tackle the problem of smokers’ congregating outdoors in cold weather, Paris has partnered with a small American design firm, Amorphica, which specializes in futuristic, sustainable solutions. Amorphica came up with the idea of solar-powered parasols, which offer a heated, enclosed space in which groups can congregate. This “urban parasol” is designed to create comfortable and interactive spaces year round. From an environmental perspective the parasols are a huge step forward, making it unnecessary to use wasteful, fossil-fuel powered heaters in winter.

This project has the potential to influence how cities think about shared space. Less flashy solutions also abound. Paris has retrofitted many of its hotels and buildings to save energy; the Champs-Elysées have started using LED lights during Christmas; and, most prominently of all, the Eiffel Tower has implemented a number of measures to save energy, including new bulbs, a green energy contract, software to control heating and lighting periods, and a reduction in the period during which the Tower is lit.

All of these initiatives make Paris an exciting venue for the COP21. Paris is moving forward; hopefully the rest of the world can come together in France to take the major step forward that we need!

The Banks of the Seine, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo courtesy of Benh LIEU SONG via Wikimedia.

The Banks of the Seine, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo courtesy of Benh LIEU SONG via Wikimedia.