Paris Green Plan (B1-B2/v24872)

Introduction

From the Champs-Élysées to the Eiffel Tower, the French capital is getting the mother of all makeovers.

Script

Narrator:  Paris is famous for its food, museums and landmarks, but there’s also some less desirable things like heavy traffic, poor air quality and most noticeably a lack of green space. But that’s all about to change as the ‘Capital of Fashion’ gets the mother of all makeovers – one that will see it challenge for the title of Europe’s greenest city.

If there’s one thing Paris doesn’t have, it’s enough greenery. Just 9.5% of its land is dedicated to gardens and green areas – lower than any other major European city. At 33%, London beats it three times over, while in Oslo a whopping 68% of the city is green space. Paris doesn’t just want to climb off the bottom of this league table; it’s set its sights on competing for the title.

By 2030 it plans to have planted areas covering half the city – everything from rooftop gardens to entire new parks. In total, over 170,000 more trees are expected to be added in the next five years. Several projects are being put forward to help achieve this goal, but one kind of stands out above the rest.

The Champs-Élysées, the city’s most famous street, is set to be transformed into this urban garden. It involves removing road lanes and replacing them with pedestrianized green space, adding ‘tree tunnels’ to enhance air quality and introducing dedicated cycle lanes. That’s quite a lot of work that needs to be done around one of the city’s most historic landmarks – a bustling hive of activity for more than 150 years.

As well as connecting the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the avenue offers some of the city’s best shops, theatres and restaurants, and it regularly hosts events like the Bastille Day parade. In normal times that is, not in the middle of a pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people a day would come here,and it’s not exactly unpopular. So why the major facelift?

Well, it might be a hit with the tourists, but the locals are no longer quite so keen. Many residents now avoid it, claiming the old boulevard has lost its splendor and cultural importance – something that would’ve been unthinkable a few decades ago.

Independent businesses have been replaced by large chain stores and air pollution has become a big issue. With tens of thousands of vehicles passing through here each day, nitrogen dioxide levels here are double the limit set out by the World Health Organization. Pedestrianizing much of the roadway would halve the amount of traffic and dramatically improve air quality.

Already, the Champs-Élysées is closed to traffic for one Sunday each month along with the first four arrondissements, opening up a vast area of the city-center to just pedestrians. The new project will hopefully entice more Parisians back to the promenade and encourage more local traders to set up shop, reinvigorating the city’s cultural district. The $300M US dollar scheme is part of a wider plan to make Paris greener with less cars and better air quality, although work on the Champs-Élysées won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

In the meantime, other similar projects are due to get underway across the city, including one that will spruce up the biggest attraction of all – the Eiffel Tower. Here a new park will be built around the base of the iconic structure, turning more than 100 acres of land into one of the largest areas of green space in the whole of Paris. Now this part of the city is already quite leafy but a lot of people find the current parkland overcrowded and inaccessible, which is why the decision was made to reimagine and extend the existing gardens.

Stretching for over a mile, the plan involves constructing a ‘green amphitheater’ at Place du Trocadero across the river and converting the Point d’Iéna into a pedestrian garden bridge, although that idea didn’t go down so well in London. On top of that, several urban forests are popping up around the city, including outside Hotel de Ville, the City Hall, and the Gare de Lyon train station.

Paris has already gone green in other ways, too. In 2020, the world’s largest urban farm opened here, around 7% of the city is going completely car-free, and almost half of the street-level parking spaces are being removed. That’s around 60,000 overall.

All of this sounds like great news for the people of Paris. It’s going to make the French capital an even more desirable place to live and visit once everything is finished. But not everyone is pleased with the idea.

Some motorist groups are angry about having less space to drive and park in what is already a highly congested city – especially for local people who rely on their cars to get around. The idea of course is that these measures ultimately reduce congestion and encourage people to use other forms of transport.

The fact is Paris has been under pressure to act for some time and not just because of poor air quality and traffic. It has needed to clean itself up ahead of the Olympics and it was here that the international treaty on climate change, the aptly-named Paris Agreement, was signed back in 2015. It wouldn’t have looked great if the city where such an (a) historic agreement was made did nothing to tackle its very visible problems with traffic, pollution and lack of green space.

Many have been pleasantly surprised by the lengths Paris is going to to freshen up its image. A move that will hopefully inspire other cities to embark on a green renaissance of their own.

 

Quiz

1. Several projects are being put forward to help increase green space, but one kind of ________ above the rest.
2. The Champs-Élysées has been a ________ hive of activity for more than 150 years.
3. Many residents now avoid the Champs-Élysées , ________ the old boulevard has lost its splendor.
4. The new project will hopefully ________ more Parisians back to the promenade.
5. Many have been pleasantly surprised by the ________ Paris is going to in order to freshen up its image.

Discussion

  1. What are some of the things you like the most about and the least about Paris?
  2. What do you think of some of the major changes the city has made in terms of  restricting auto circulation and reclaiming space for pedestrians and cyclists?
  3. Do you feel that Paris has enough green space and natural areas?  What else could the city do to improve  these features?

 

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