Paris’ ecological footprint in decline

Trams help cut the ecological footprint of the city of Paris. [Victor/Flickr]

Cleaner transport has helped reduce the ecological footprint of the Île-de-France region over the last decade, but housing and food are two energy intensive sectors where little has changed. Journal de l’Environnement reports.

A report published by the Île-de-France region’s Institute for Town Planning and Development (IAU) on 13 October concluded that the ecological footprint of the region (which surrounds the city of Paris) of 4.8 global hectares per person (gha/p) in 2014.

To calculate this, the amount of material consumed by each person (tonnes per year) is divided by the yield of the specific land or sea area (annual tonnes per hectare) from which it was harvested, or where its waste material was absorbed.

In 2004 the average was 5.58 gha/p. By this measure, the Île-de-France region has reduced its ecological footprint by 13.8% in 10 years.

“This progress has been on-going since 2004, largely thanks to the use of public and environmentally-friendly transport, and a better understanding of the environment in regional policy,” said Iuli Nascimento, the head of sustainable development at the IAU.

Food, goods and services

It may be falling, but the ecological footprint of the average inhabitant of Île-de-France is still higher than the French average (4.66 gha/p). Food accounts for 44% of the region’s ecological footprint, and consumer goods and services for 31%.

“Île-de-France residents eat out more often and consume more exotic products. The region is also the joint highest consumer of ready meals, along with Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and these also have a heavy ecological footprint,” Iuli Nascimento added.

She attributed the high consumption of goods and services to the region’s high average income and generous offering of services and cultural events.

Smaller houses, higher energy consumption

The average ecological footprint related to housing is lighter in the Île-de-France region than in the rest of France, due to the smaller size of the dwellings: 32.6 m² as opposed to 39.8 m² in the whole of France.

But the figures for energy consumption are the opposite of what one might expect: the average Île-de-France resident has an energy footprint of 0.45 gha/p, compared to 0.41 gha/p in France as a whole.

According to the IAU, this is largely due to the fact that electricity accounts for a significantly larger proportion of the energy mix outside Île-de-France, and France’s electricity has a very low ecological impact.

Lighter transport footprint

The ecological footprint of transport has been falling thanks to a decline in car use, a boom in public transport and the development of bike and car sharing services over the last ten years, but also thanks to the limited capacity of the road system and the lack of parking spaces. These appear to be persuasive factors in encouraging residents to leave their cars at home.

In spite of the progress made over the last decade, Île-de-France residents have an ecological footprint nine times greater than the biocapacity of their region. With only a small proportion of land available for agricultural use, the region’s biocapacity is only 0.54 global hectares per person, compared to 2.99 gha/p for France as a whole.

“Île-de-France could further reduce its footprint by developing local agriculture and using less resource-intensive materials,” Iuli Nascimento said.

Institute for Town Planning and Development of the Île-de-France region (IAU-IDF)


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