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Heatwave In Paris Exposes City's Lack Of Trees

PARIS, France - As a third heatwave backed France this week, the hear radiating off the asphalt outside the Garnier Opera House in Paris hit 56 degrees Celsius on urban planning expert Tangui Le Dantec's thermometer. Shade was non - existent with barely a tree in sight.

The Place de L'Opera is one of numerous so - called urban heat islands in the French capital, lacking the tress taht cool cities down by providing shade and seen as a key line of defence against climate change and increasingly hot summers.

Just a minute's walk away, in the shade along the tree - lines Boulevard des Italiens, Le Dantec's thermometer gave a reading of 29C (82 degrees Fahrenheit).

'Immediately there's a bit of a breeze. You can breath', Le Dantec, who founded Aux Arbres Citoyens, an acting group opposed to tree felling.

Paris ranks poorly among global cities for its green cover. According to data from the World Cities Culture Forum, only 10% of Paris is made up of green space such as parks and gardens compared to London at 33% and Oslo at 68%.

Last month was the hottest July on record in France, according to the national weather agency Meteo France, the searing temperature underling to the need to strengthen the capital's natural defences against global warming.

Paris City Hall wants to create 'island of freshness' and plans to plant 170,000 trees by 2026. It is also ripping up the concrete in dozens of schools yard and laying down soil and vegetation.

'It's a massive tree and vegetation - planting project that is underway, much bigger than under previous administrations', said Jacques Baudrier, deputy Paris mayor tasked with the green energy transition in buildings.

However, City Halls' green ambitious have provoked some protests. Le Dantec and other ecology campaigners say the local authorities have been felling scores of decades old trees to make way for garden spaces.

In redrawing the city's landscape, the felling of mature trees runs counter to the authorities' own ambitions as sapling are more vulnerable to drought and less useful in fighting heat radiation, green activists say.

In April, green activist Thomas Brail shot video of more than 70 trees being felled on the city's northern outskirts to make way for Mayor Anne Hidalgo's vision for a 'green belt' around the city.

City Hall's urban planners say Paris cannot be redesigned to better confront climate change without felling some trees.



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