PARIS. Long a favorite spot for picnics and sunbathing, the lawns surrounding the Eiffel Tower have recently become the scene of violent protests. first appeared social media campaign. Then rallyy dozens of local residents. Soon one of the protesters squatted down in the nearest plane tree for a hunger strike.
The source of their anger? The plan is to cut down more than 20 trees, some over 100 years old, around the tower as part of an effort to create a huge garden and reduce tourist crowds.
This controversy is just the latest in a series that has gripped the Paris City Hall as it attempts to green the city, a task that seems increasingly urgent as scorching temperatures hit the French capital. and the rest of Europe.
Local authorities redesigning the urban landscape of Paris to make it more climate friendlybut a growing number of residents say that widespread tree cutting around the capital is paradoxically undermining the city’s environmental ambitions.
Trees are considered one of the best defenses against radiation, which contributes to the heatwaves that are intensifying everywhere due to global warming. They provide much-needed coolness in densely populated cities like Paris, where Monday afternoon temperatures were in the high 90s and expected to be higher.
“Without trees, the city turns into an unbearable oven,” said Tanguy Le Dantec, urban planner and co-founder of Aux Arbres Citoyens, a group protesting tree cutting in Paris.
Small protests have swept across Paris in recent months, with residents and activists gathering around trees condemned by sprawling urban development projects that have at times turned the capital into a giant construction site.
In April they filmed felling of 76 plane trees, most of which are decades old, in the Porte de Montreuil on the northern outskirts of Paris. The mayor’s office wants to turn this place into a huge square, which is part of the mayor’s project. Ann Hidalgocreate “green beltaround the capital.
“RS. Hidalgo, please stop the carnage,” Thomas Brale, founder of the National Tree Watch Group, said as machines cut down trees behind him in video he shot in April. mr. Braille later went on an 11-day hunger strike on a plane tree near the Eiffel Tower.
Yves Contasso, a former deputy mayor of Paris for the environment and a member of the Greens, said tree cutting has become “a very sensitive issue that causes a bit of a scandal at a time when we are talking about the fight against global warming.” in the big cities.”
At first, the plan to redevelop the traffic-clogged area around the Eiffel Tower seemed environmentally sound to Parisians. Most vehicles will be banned and a network of footpaths, bike paths and parks will be created.
“The new green lung,” the mayor’s office boasted on its Web site.
But in May, residents discovered that the plan also involved cutting down 22 well-established trees and threatening the root systems of several others, including a 200-year-old plane tree planted long before the Eiffel Tower was built in the late 1880s.
“The poor tree was planted in 1814, and one morning some guys want to make room for luggage, and it is swept away,” Mr. Wilson said. Braile, a tree-hungry protester, ridiculed plans to improve conditions for visitors.
A series of protests, and online petition which garnered over 140,000 signatures, eventually forcing the city council on May 2 to change its plans and pledge not to cut a single tree as part of the landscaping project.
Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of urban planning and architecture, said in an interview that the city has realized it is “losing a symbolic battle for the project’s green ambitions.”
In 2007, Paris adopted a climate plan that helped reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 20 percent from 2004 to 2018 and nearly double its renewable energy consumption. recent report regional authorities. Paris’s new goal is to become a carbon-neutral city by 2050, powered only by renewable energy sources.
mr. Le Dantec, an urban planner, acknowledged that “in terms of reducing pollution, there have undoubtedly been improvements.” He referred to Mrs. Hidalgo successful though contested plans to limit the use of cars in the capital.
But he added that Paris’s city plans have neglected another reality of climate change: rising temperatures, against which trees are considered one of the best defenses.
Trees cool cities by providing shade and mitigating the so-called “urban heat islands” that dominate Paris by absorbing radiation. Météo France, National Meteorological Service, rated that temperatures in these heat islands during recent heatwaves have sometimes been 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding areas.
In the middle of June, when France was suffocating in the scorching heat, Mr. Le Dantec wandered around Paris with a thermometer. On Republic Square recorded temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit on concrete surfaces compared to 82 degrees under a 100 year old plane tree.
“Our best protection against the heat is the trees,” said Dominique Dupré-Henri, former architect at the Ministry of the Environment and co-founder of Aux Arbres Citoyens.
But of the 30 major cities studied Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyParis has the lowest tree cover, at around 9 percent, compared to 12.7 percent in London and 28.8 percent in Oslo.
“This is the exact opposite of adapting to climate change,” Ms. said Dupre-Henri.
mr. Gregoire said Paris plans to plant 170,000 new trees by 2026. Taking the example of the Porte de Montreuil, a district in the north of Paris, he said that many more trees would be planted than cut down.
“This is a project with very high environmental standards. Gregoire said, emphasizing the transformation of what is now a huge paved roundabout into a green square. “The result is positive in terms of combating urban heat islands.”
Regional environmental authorities are less confident. In their grade project, they noted that construction work and new infrastructure “on the contrary, will add more heat.”
mr. Le Dantec also said that in the short term, young trees are less effective than older trees in mitigating global warming because their foliage is smaller and cannot absorb as much radiation. “A century-old tree is worth 125 newly planted trees” in terms of absorbing carbon dioxide and cooling the environment, he said.
Residents of Porte de Montreuil reacted to the project ambiguously. Lo Richert LeBon, a 57-year-old designer, praised the green effort, saying it will help improve the quality of life in this long-decaying suburb.
But “lawns aren’t worth trees,” she added, standing in the shade of the plane trees planned to be cut down as part of the reconstruction of the area’s flea market. “Trees need to be integrated into these efforts, not be a regulated variable.”