Sustainability in Paris

A look at Paris' journey to being a world leader in sustainability

May 28, 2024
eiffel towereiffel tower

In 2015, Paris hosted the COP climate summit, paving the way for increased international cooperation and obligation in dealing with the climate crisis. This established Paris’ status as a world leader in sustainable living. Some big claims were made by mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has been determined to bring them to fruition, unlike some of her contemporaries. It is almost ten years since the summit, and progress has been significant, despite the city not being known for openess to change. Here we look at the changes made, and how sustainable a city Paris has become. We’ll also explain what you can do to help if you’re visiting, or living in Paris yourself.

What initiatives are underway?

Paris was not asleep before 2015. It was already one of Europe’s leading cities when it comes to sustainability, and initiated an ambitious Climate Action Plan in 2007. They reduced their carbon footprint by an impressive 20% between 2004 and 2018. Since the climate summit, those efforts have multiplied. The government claims it will have invested €10 billion in climate initiatives in the region by 2025. Here are some of the things they are doing:

Sustainable Urban Planning

Paris is at the forefront of sustainable urban planning and development, with a focus on creating compact and sustainable communities. The city has implemented policies aimed at reducing urban sprawl and promoting the development of mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods that reduce the need for car use. The idea is that the city will have multiple hubs, and people will be able to do more in their own neighborhood, without the need to cross the city as often.

The city has carried out several initiatives aimed at lowering energy consumption in buildings. This includes retrofitting older buildings to be more energy efficient and promoting the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Over 75,000m² of solar panels have already been installed on Paris rooftops. Municipal facilities in Paris are now solely powered by renewable energy.

Paris is also a leader in the use of geothermal energy, which harnesses the heat from the Earth's core to provide energy for heating and cooling. This increase in renewable energy supplies allowed France to completely cut out coal use in 2021. They were forced to reopen two plants to deal with the energy crisis of last year, but insist this will be temporary.

green in paris

More greenery

Paris is becoming known for its green spaces and efforts to maintain them as part of its urban environment, having started a greening programme in 2007. The city has been adding more and more, and now has over 400 parks and gardens. These serve as important places for recreation and socialization, as well as helping to reduce the heat island effect and improve air quality.

The government has been actively involved in planting trees and vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 2007 over 100,000 trees have been planted in the city proper, and they plan to make that 170,000 by 2026. Not content with only having green spaces between buildings, they are also attempting to add 100 hectares of plantlife to the walls and rooftops of the buildings themselves. In 2012 Paris was awarded a Silver Territoria prize for the work it’s doing with vegetation-planted roofs.

plants on building


One of Paris’ main aims for a while now has been to reduce emissions in the city center. Their public transport network is thorough, covering the entire city. Train and metro lines have been extended in recent years. The reasonably priced tickets can now be bought electronically, making for a smoother and faster experience. For €75 a month through the Navigo card, you can get unlimited trips on all public transport.

Paris has developed a bike sharing service- Vélib, which includes both mechanical and electric bikes. They have also created Autolib (car sharing) and Cityscoot (electric mopeds). Bike lanes have been massively extended, with over 900 miles added since Hidalgo began her term. Along with Paris’ wide open streets, this makes the city an easy and pleasant one in which to use bikes, even if you don’t own one.

bike race

With greener options now aplenty in Paris, the city have worked on discouraging car use. They’ve implemented car-free zones in the center, including the right banks of the Seine, and several plazas have been redesigned to make them more pedestrian friendly. They have also cut the number of parking spaces in the city. Covid was a great help with this- having so few people on the streets allowed them to carry out a great deal of work considerably faster.

The goal was to encourage citizens to choose different methods of transport, and it’s working. Car use within the city limits has dropped 45% since 1990. Undeterred, the government wants to make some districts car free, and ban diesel cars from the whole city center by 2024. By 2030, the plan is to make the entire city free of private cars.

Waste management

In terms of waste management, Paris has been working towards reducing the amount of waste generated by residents and businesses. The city has implemented a comprehensive waste management system, including separate collection for different types of waste and the promotion of recycling. Like in most cities, the recycling bins are colour coded. Yellow is for plastic and metal (loose- don’t bag it), blue for cardboard, and white for glass. Sometimes you can find brown bins for compost, green is for everything else.

Since 2015, over €2 million has been spent on 4,000 additional recycling bins, 170 new glass collection columns, 40 Trilib (waste sorting) stations, and more. Paris has also been working to reduce food waste by encouraging residents to buy only what’s necessary, and by supporting initiatives that distribute surplus food to those in need. An audit of the current food system is in progress, to see how further waste can be avoided.

Eco events

For the 2016 European football championships, Paris raised the bar. From the use of ecocups, the recovery of food oils and bio waste, to the recycling of flags and tarpaulins. Big efforts were made to make the event a sustainable one. As they are hosting the upcoming Olympic games in 2024, the work continues. The Olympic village at Seine-St Denis will be eco-friendly, and the Marne and Seine rivers are being cleaned to the extent that they will be open for public bathing. Open water swimming events will take place in the Seine next year.

siene river with people

What does the future hold?

Paris has made significant progress with sustainability, focusing on reducing its carbon footprint, promoting sustainable transportation, maintaining green spaces, increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste, and promoting sustainable urban development. Its efforts to date have been impressive and serve as a model for other cities around the world, but there is still much work to do to make Paris a truly sustainable city. The green takeover will spread across the whole city. Even the Champs Elysées has a makeover planned, with two of its lanes being sacrificed for greenery.

The ultimate aim is carbon neutrality by 2050, which involves several challenges, such as renovating 1 million homes. With all the progress they have made in the last 15 years though- who would bet against them?