By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Whether your a lucky resident, an enamoured tourist or a Francophile at heart, chances are you’ll be keen to follow the race to become mayor in Paris this spring.
This is because for the first time in its colourful history, la Ville Lumière will have a female mayor: the two candidates who are most likely to fill in Bertrand Delanoë’s position are Anne Hidalgo and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, and luckily, both are very much concerned with enhancing Paris’ sustainability.
It’s about time: the French capital suffers from air pollution caused not only by cars, but prolific numbers of smokers in the streets; its old buildings are far from energy-efficient, and compared to greener cities like Toronto or London, trees are few and far between.
Anne Hidalgo is the Socialist mayoral candidate, who has already worked at city hall for the past thirteen years. She emphasises more public housing and extra crèche places and has declared that she wants to focus on what is “sustainable, responsible and innovative.” This is why she herself moves around PAris in an electric car, and backs Scootlib, a proposed electric scooter-hire system akin to the capital’s Vélib for bicycles and Autolib for electric cars. Furthermore, Hidalgo has declared her desire to invest €1.5 billion on public transportation, including extended tramlines, as well as putting down an extra €1 billion to transform Paris into a wireless “smart city”.
These are Hidalgo’s proposals for a cleaner and more eco-efficient city:
Transform Paris into a workshop of circular economy, promoting bio, urban agriculture, local consumption, recycling, create some eco-neighbourhoods.
Promote eco-transportation, thermic renewal, produce and retrieve electricity.
To be at the peak of ecological standards by 2015, when the worldwide conference COP21 on climate change will take place.
Make Paris into a cleaner city by: increasing the number of public lavatories, fighting against the cigarettes tossed on the ground; increasing the city’s public cleaning of the various neighbourhoods.
Decrease the amount of rubbish produced and manage it more wisely, creating waste sorting centres close-by, as well as fight the food waste and donate to associations for the homeless.
Develop a new means of fluvial transportation that may reduce waste.
Hidalgo says: “Ecology in Paris is not an abstract idea, it’s our health, our quality of life, and the means of the future.” Should she become the Mayor of Paris, she will develop the use of solar panels on the front and on the ground, i.e. implement photovoltaic facades and floors to find new sources of heat, including using heat from sewers, as well as geothermal energy. Additional measures to green Paris up would include the development of terraces, roofs and green walls, as well as gardening courses and environmental education in schools, and the planting of fruit trees in the Parisian parks and gardens, to enlighten citizens on the importance of living in an eco-city.
The Mayoral Opposition
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, also known as NKM, seems to represent the utmost ideal of coherent eco-Mayor, since she led the wide-ranging ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Her trademark ideas are to build over big stretches of the périphérique that surrounds Paris, and to keep the Métro running until 2am.
She has made some gaffes, however: she spoke once of the charm of the Metro system (to the disbelief of commuters who pack themselves into its trains each day), and is seen to be ‘too posh’ to be mayor.
However, her policies are sound. She wants to curb car use, for one. “The city’s vocation is not that of being a gigantic automobile circuit. Hence it’s natural to want to limit the amount of cars in the city, just like all other metropolis in the world do. I will differentiate policies on the topic according to the neighbourhoods. Individual cars shouldn’t be allowed in certain areas. On the other hand on the larger arterial roads, they will be allowed to circulate,” she told us.
She also stated: “I would like to enhance pedestrian areas in the four arrondissements of the city centre – 1er, 2e, 3e and 4e – as well as on the “hills” of Paris, and the Montagne of Sainte-Geneviève, Montmartre, Belleville.”
In short, NKM, proposes these 10 key initiatives to help Paris fight pollution:
Forbid heavy weight and touristic vehicles, by creating a Zapa area (Priority Zones for Action to Protect Air) with restrictions on circulation.
Create “clean” areas in all the Parisian neighbourhoods with very low emission of pollution substances, with areas reserved to non-polluting cars.
Turn Paris into “la ville électrique” by doubling the ecology bonus to those companies and artisans that may benefit from financial aid to charge their vehicles, and by improving the already existing charge stations for electric cars and add more in the outskirts of Paris.
Eradicate the diesel run vehicles of the city police (but why not buses?).
Enact an emergency plan for poor indoors air in the métro and public spaces like the 661 schools or the 708 child care centres in Paris.
Reinforce the use of bicycles in Paris by creating more cycling tracks.
Multiply by four the pedestrian areas and improve the already existing ones. The goal is to transform 200 hectares in pedestrian area.
Create additional green areas.
NKM told me: “My goal is to create a million square meters of green areas by 2020. I would like Paris to be a city with positive energy, that gives us more energy than we take. There are some constraints, that are inevitable and connected to the means of transportation. Thus the city is noisier, more polluted and ends up being marginalised. Paris has always withheld a promise of historical emancipation at an individual and collective level. And it is with this very promise that I would like it to re-establish itself.”
Both women are putting forth sensible, green policies, and either way, whether the Mayor seat will be filled by Anne Hidalgo or Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet what is certain is that la Ville Lumière, in March, will elect its first ever Madame le Maire, who will proclaim “Vive L’Ecologie!”
Images of Paris: Wikicommons