By Karen Perkins
Time Magazine, in its September 2020 issue, chose Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to be among “The 100 Most Influential People of 2020.”
Al Gore wrote about how Hidalgo hosted the historic Paris Agreement five years ago, establishing a global map for reductions of greenhouse emissions. ”Mayor Hidalgo has turned Paris into a shining example of how cities can lead the transition to cleaner, healthier and more prosperous cities,” Gore wrote. “In our increasingly urban world, there is so much opportunity for cities – which are already responsible for 70% of global greenhouse-gas emissions – to lead the global fight. Mayor Hidalgo is a visionary leader – the kind of leader who demonstrates how local action can solve the climate crisis.”
Many cities worldwide have Climate Action Plans; however, some take the word “action” more seriously than others. Paris residents elected Hidalgo 2014. She campaigned on plans to cut down on pollution and make Paris more livable. She vowed to decrease car traffic and increase bicycling, walking and electric public transit.
That Mayor of Paris…Decreasing Traffic Congestion
In order to decrease pollution and make the city greener, she has cut street parking in half, removing 70,000 parking spaces. She then asked residents what they wanted to do with the spaces. Some plans for vacated spaces include more trees, children’s playgrounds and bike lock-up areas. Priority for the remaining spaces will be given to residents and businesses. All disabled spaces remain.
She has closed a major road through Paris, and smaller roads that crisscross the city. She has also closed the roads along the Seine River. Where once there was auto traffic on both sides of the river, now there are walking paths for people to stroll, bike lanes, green parks and sand covered beaches, where people with umbrellas can picnic and enjoy the sun. In addition, every car entering Paris must have a sticker attached with its emissions. Under her plans, Paris will remove 72% of its on-street parking spaces.
Shutting down roads has not been without controversy. Taxi and Uber drivers, and those who drive into the city but don’t live there, have fumed about not being able to drive rapidly through Paris. They staged a protest blocking a four-lane road. However, Hidalgo was determined. She continued her efforts to improve the quality of life of the city’s residents. Her goal was to make Paris quieter, cleaner and less polluted. Under her guidance, the city council voted to ban diesel cars by 2024 and gas combustion cars by 2030.
That Mayor of Paris…Transforming Paris’s Infrastructure
Mayor Hidalgo has also spearheaded construction of environmentally friendly buildings. In fact, a groundbreaking eco-village, named “Clichy-Batignolles,” has been constructed. These new buildings provide a glimpse of the low-carbon future envisioned in many climate plans. In addition, engineers have mapped all the city’s buildings according to their energy efficiency and have retrofitted over 50,000 for better insulation and ventilation. She also loosened rigid building codes so that residents could plant trees in their neighborhoods.
Paris has suffered from many heat waves in recent years. Rooftop gardens have been helping to lower temperatures, and turn Paris greener, create biodiversity and allow residents to grow organic food. Additionally, pocket parks and trees have replaced cement to provide shade and help with cooling and sequestering carbon. Residents call these tree-shaded parks “isles of coolness.”
That Mayor of Paris…Planning for the Future
During the pandemic and lockdown, Hidalgo said, as horrible as it has been, for the first time, “We could hear birds” and “We could breathe.” Although she has been faced with tragedies as mayor, including the Charlie Hebdo killings and the catastrophic fire at Notre Dame cathedral, there have also been victories. Paris will host the Olympics in 2024. Additionally, Mayor Hidalgo plans to build an energy efficient Olympic Village in one of the poorest areas of Paris.
Conde Nast Traveler magazine wrote, “Her governance revolves around social inclusion, innovation, sustainable development and environmental issues earning her a pioneering reputation among city leaders around the world for her steadfast commitment to climate action.” The people of Paris agree. First elected in 2014, she ran sucessfully for a second six-year term reelection in 2020.
Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, January 6, 2021. Email Karen Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.