Latest heatwave news in the UK and Europe: Live updates

Latest heatwave news in the UK and Europe: Live updates

PARIS – For a long time a favorite place for picnics and sunbathing, the lawns around the Eiffel Tower have recently become the scene of furious protests. First came a social media campaign. So one rally of dozens of locals. Shortly after had a demonstrator hunket down in a plane tree nearby for a hunger strike.

The source of their anger? A plan to cut down more than 20 trees, some over 100 years old, around the tower as part of an attempt to build a huge garden and ease tourist traffic.

The controversy is only the latest in a series that has engulfed Paris City Hall as it tries to green the city, a task that appears all the more urgent as burning temperatures push down the French capital and the rest of Europe.

Local authorities are redesigning the capital’s urban landscape to make it more climate – friendly, but a growing number of residents say that the widespread felling of trees around the capital paradoxically undermines the city’s environmental ambitions.

Trees are considered to be some of the best defenses against the radiation that contributes to the heat waves that are rising everywhere due to global warming. They provide much-needed coolness in dense cities like Paris, where temperatures were in the high 90s on Monday afternoon and expected to go higher.

Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

“Without the trees, the city is an unbearable furnace,” said Tangui Le Dantec, a city planner and co-founder of the Aux Arbres Citoyens, a group protesting against tree felling in Paris.

In recent months, small protests have sprung up all over Paris, with residents and activists gathering around trees condemned by the sweeping urban development projects that have at times turned the capital into a giant construction site.

In April, they have filmed felling of 76 plane trees, most of them decades old, at the Porte de Montreuil on the northern outskirts of Paris. The town hall wants to turn the place into a massive square, part of a project by the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, to create “a green belt” around the capital.

«Ms. Hidalgo, please stop the massacre, “said Thomas Brail, founder of the National Group for the Surveillance of Trees, as machines chopped up trees behind him, in a video he shot in April. Mr. Brail later went on an 11-day hunger strike in the plane tree near the Eiffel Tower.

Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Yves Contassot, a former deputy mayor of Paris responsible for the environment and a member of the Green Party, said cutting trees had become “a very sensitive issue that is causing a bit of a scandal at a time when we are talking about fighting global warming in big cities”. . “

At first, the plan to rebuild the busy area around the Eiffel Tower seemed environmentally friendly to the people of Paris. Most vehicles would be banned and a network of footpaths, cycle paths and parks would be created.

“A new green lung,” the town hall boasted on its website.

But residents discovered in May that the plan also involved cutting down 22 well-established trees and threatening the root system 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 boys want to make room for luggage storage and it is swept away,” said Mr. Brail, the protester who went on a hunger strike in the tree, mocking plans to improve facilities. for visitors.

Credit…Thomas Coex / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

A series of protests, as well as an online signature campaign that gathered more than 140,000 signatures, finally forced the city council on May 2 to change its plans and promise not to cut a single tree as part of the greening project.

Emmanuel Grégoire, Paris’ deputy mayor in charge of urban planning and architecture, said in an interview that the city realized that it “lost 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 doubled the consumption of renewable energy, according to a recent report by regional authorities. Paris’s new goal is to become a carbon-neutral city powered only by renewable energy by 2050.

Mr Le Dantec, the town planner, acknowledged that “there has undoubtedly been an improvement in terms of pollution reduction.” He referred to Mrs Hidalgo’s successful, but controversial, plans to limit car use in the capital.

But he added that Paris’ city plans had neglected another reality of climate change: rising temperatures, against which trees are considered some of the best defenses.

Credit…Christophe Archambault / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Trees cool cities by providing shade and dampening the effects of so-called “urban heat islands”

which is widespread in Paris, by absorbing radiation. This has been estimated by Météo France, the national weather service the temperatures on the warm islands during the last heat waves were sometimes 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in surrounding areas.

In mid-June, while France was suffocating under scorching temperatures, Mr Le Dantec was walking around Paris with a thermometer. At the Place de la République, he recorded temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit on concrete surfaces, compared to 82 degrees under a 100-year-old plane tree.

“Our best protection against heat waves is trees,” said Dominique Dupré-Henry, a former architect at the Ministry of the Environment and co-founder of Aux Arbres Citoyens.

But of the 30 major cities studied by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Paris has the lowest wooden deck, at around 9 percent, compared with 12.7 percent in London and 28.8 percent in Oslo.

“This is exactly the opposite of adapting to climate change,” Dupré-Henry said.

Mr. Grégoire said that Paris planned to plant 170,000 new trees by 2026. Taking the example of the Porte de Montreuil, the area north of Paris, he said that far more trees would be planted than cut down.

Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

“It is a project with very high environmental standards,” said Grégoire, emphasizing the transformation of what is now a huge asphalt roundabout into a green square. “The outcome is positive when it comes to fighting urban heat islands.”

Regional environmental authorities are less safe. In their assessment of the project, they noted that the 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 ones in reducing global warming because their leaves are smaller and can not absorb as much radiation. “A 100-year-old tree is worth 125 newly planted trees” when it comes to absorbing carbon dioxide and cooling the environment, he said.

At the Porte de Montreuil, residents had mixed feelings about the project. Lo Richert Lebon, a 57-year-old designer, praised the “green effort” and said they would help improve the quality of life in this dilapidated suburb.

But “lawns are not worth trees,” she added, standing in the shade of plane trees to be felled, as part of the redesign of a flea market in the area. “Trees should be integrated into this effort, rather than being an adjustment variable.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.