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Paris Adopts Climate Action Plan, Aims To Achieve a ‘Zero-Carbon’ Future

Aiming to tackle this is France's Passeport Efficacite Energetique (Energy Efficiency Passport) — a project led by think tanks and companies such as French utility EDF.

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People cool themselves at the Trocadero Fountain in front of The Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 27, 2018, as a heatwave continues across northern Europe. VOA
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Arrayed between elegant stone buildings and run-down railway tracks in the northwest of Paris lie bustling playgrounds, plant-filled ponds and stretches of lush grass.

The Clichy-Batignolles area, a former industrial wasteland, has morphed into the French capital’s first “eco-neighborhood,” billed as a model of sustainable development for the rest of the city.

Clarisse Genton, project coordinator for the Clichy-Batignolles district, said it aims to be “environmentally responsible” — with solar panels on homes and clean geothermal energy for heating, for example.

But the eco-effort also has a social aim: to address the city’s affordable housing crisis and ensure green benefits reach the poor as well as the rich.

“We wanted to create a district that’s accessible to all and to bridge the gap between poor and rich parts of the city,” said Genton, referring to the neighboring posh district of Monceau and the poorer La Fourche.

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An aerial view is seen of the construction site of the new Paris courthouse in the urban development zone of Clichy–Batignolles, northwest of Paris. VOA

Paris is one of more than 70 cities worldwide that have pledged to become “carbon neutral” by 2050, meaning they will produce no more climate-changing emissions than they can offset, such as by planting carbon-absorbing trees.

Each is going about achieving the goal in its own way. But because cities account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.N., and consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, whether they succeed or fail will have a huge impact on whether the world’s climate goals are met.

“Cities are where everything comes together: homes, transport, public spaces — so there’s a real role for them to help create the living places of the future,” said Eliot Whittington, director of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group, a coalition of businesses promoting climate action.

“We’ve got to a state of accepting a certain level of waste and energy [use], but climate change [and] heat waves affect us all and have a real toll on people’s lives,” he told Reuters.

Global warming is currently set to exceed the more ambitious limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degree Fahrenheit) called for in the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate change, according to a draft U.N. report due for publication in October.

Following public consultations, Paris adopted its climate action plan in March. It aims to make the city carbon-neutral and entirely powered by renewable energy by 2050.

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The study published in the journal Science Advances showed that meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal was likely to reduce the area of the globe that experiences greater than threefold increases in the probability of record-setting events. Wikimedia Commons

From swimming pools heated by sewage to ensuring the city is fully “cyclable” by 2020, it includes more than 500 initiatives to reimagine Paris as a zero-carbon capital.

‘Green lung’

The Clichy-Batignolles area of 54 hectares (130 acres), once chosen as Paris’s Olympic village as part of the city’s failed 2012 bid, is built around a 10-hectare park containing a skate park, deck chairs and wooden bridges.

Martin Luther King Park acts as a “green lung” and an “island of coolness” for the neighborhood, said Genton, showing a miniature model of the district to two passersby.

“Rainwater is channeled toward wetlands rather than discharged into sewers, and household waste is collected through an underground pneumatic system — removing the need for garbage trucks,” she added.

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Panels of a photovoltaic power station are installed on the roof of a building in the new Clichy-Batignolles district in Paris. VOA

Buildings are heated by a new geothermal plant, and about two-thirds of homes are equipped with solar panels on their roof.

But the eco-district is about more than energy efficiency and biodiversity, said Genton, adding that “we urgently need affordable homes in a city that cannot grow and where prices are skyrocketing.”

Half of the neighborhood’s newly built flats qualify as social housing and can be rented for about 300 euros a month, she said.

Local residents have so far warmed to their new neighborhood, and say they feel “more connected” to the rest of the city, she said.

But many still await the arrival of a promised metro line, which should help reduce traffic and public transport congestion in the area, Genton said.

Virgile Geraud, a retired carpenter who has lived in Clichy-Batignolles for 40 years and is considering renting one of the new homes, said that “this new park, these new buildings … it’s really nice, it’s a change of lifestyle.”

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Paris, Wikimedia

“But some people think the new buildings are too tall or too modern,” he added, pointing to a bright yellow crane looming over a half-completed building.

Denis Musanga, who two months ago moved to Clichy-Batignolles from the Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, said he was “shocked by how clean it is, even at night.”

He is less convinced of the “affordable” label, however, saying that he pays 650 euros for one room in a two-bed flat — “much more than what I paid in the suburbs.”

Citizen-led

If zero-carbon initiatives are to succeed, citizens need to buy into them, according to the city of Paris’ climate plan, which received hundreds of proposals from residents to improve their city.

Fortunately, many ways of cutting emissions can also help people be more comfortable or save money, experts said.

Improving home insultation, for instance, can curb emissions, make people more comfortable and make a “significant difference” in their energy bills, Whittington said.

“Loft insulation for example is one of the easiest things to do, but what holds people back from doing it is the hassle. When do you do it? How do you clear the loft?”

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The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words “Paris Agreement is Done,” to celebrate the Paris U.N. Climate Change agreement in Paris. VOA

European cities have come a long way in improving energy efficiency in buildings and homes, he said, but still have a “huge body of old, inefficient buildings.”

“That’s a missed opportunity to tackle energy waste and improve people’s lives,” he said.

Aiming to tackle this is France’s Passeport Efficacite Energetique (Energy Efficiency Passport) — a project led by think tanks and companies such as French utility EDF. It encourages householders to renovate their homes step by step.

Also Read: ‘Carbon Removal’ An Urgent Priority to Stop Climate Change

Still in its pilot phase, the project involves auditing the energy efficiency of homes and storing any progress made — such as the use of more efficient lighting — with an online tool.

Musanga, whose building is not yet equipped with solar panels, said he is open to the idea but “wants proof” that going greener can save him money.

“If it helps the planet, then that’s a bonus,” he said, tying on his rollerblades before disappearing into the distance. (VOA)

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U.N. Chief Warns The World About Not Doing Enough To Prevent Climate Disruptions

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 184 parties, including India, and entered into force in November 2016.

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Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C. VOA

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said the world was in deep trouble and not doing enough or moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.

“Climate change is running faster than we are, and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said in his remarks at the official opening of the two-week long UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, that saw governments and delegates from nearly 200 countries in this Polish city.

“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with the climate change. For many, people, regions, and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death.

“This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed (in 2015),” he said.

He was categorically clear in saying “Our job here in Katowice is to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme — the rule book for implementation. I remind all parties that this is a deadline you set for yourselves.”

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference with the national and international press to present the results of his visit to Mali and to answer the many questions of journalists.

The rule book will govern national pledges to keep the rise in global temperature to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, and ensuring adequate finances to developing nations.

Climate experts told IANS that the priority outcome at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will be the finalisation of the ‘Paris rule book’, a Bible for transparent implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement — the first global treaty to reduce emissions by all rich and poor nations.

The COP24 negotiations with the participation of more than 20,000 people from nearly 200 countries are going to be held in the backdrop of grim news on climate change from three UN environment bodies.

This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

“It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” Guterres said.

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U.N. Climate chief Patricia Espinosa (C) is flanked by officials during a press conference at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, VOA

“Nor are we doing enough to capitalize on the enormous social, economic and environmental opportunities of climate action.

“And so, I want to deliver four simple messages.”

First: Science demands a significantly more ambitious response, he said.

Second: The Paris Agreement provides the framework for action, so “we must operationalise it”.

Third: “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos, to consolidate the financial commitments made in Paris and to assist the most vulnerable communities and nations.”

And fourth: Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better.

“Let me turn first to science,” he said.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.

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This undated photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows yellow-cedar trees growing along Sheep Lake east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. Adding and restoring forests is a cheap way to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, a new report says. VOA

The concentration of carbon dioxide is the highest it has been in three million years.

Emissions are now growing again.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that warming could reach 1.5 degrees as soon as 2030, with devastating impacts.

“The latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report tells us that the current Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement will lead to global warming of about three degrees by the end of the century,” the Secretary-General said.

He said emissions must decline by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.

Renewable energy will need to supply half to two-thirds of the world’s primary energy by 2050 with a corresponding reduction in fossil fuels.

“We need to embrace low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development.”

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The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

Ensuring adequate finances to developing nations for sustainable low-emissions, he said: “Some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 still remains to be built.”

“Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey. That means embracing carbon pricing, eliminating harmful fossil fuel subsidies and investing in clean technologies.

“We also have a collective responsibility to assist the most vulnerable communities and countries — such as small island nations and the least developed countries — by supporting adaptation and resilience.

“Making clear progress to mobilise the pledged $100 billion a year will provide a much-needed positive political signal,” the UN Secretary General said.

“I have appointed the President of France and the Prime Minister of Jamaica to lead the mobilisation of the international community, both public and private, to reach that target in the context of preparation of the Climate Summit I have convened in September of next year.”

“I also urge member states to swiftly implement the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. It is an investment in a safer, less costly future,” he added.

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