Paris and 100RC: The City of Light Embraces Resilience

The City of Paris has long exemplified the values of resilience. Driven by its motto Fluctuat Nec Mergitur (“Tossed but not sunk”), and as demonstrated throughout history, Paris has shown time after time its ability to emerge stronger when confronted with major events. With a rich history as a political and cultural leader – Paris has proven itself a worthy archetype consistently ahead of its time. Yet, at this moment in history, Paris stands at the precipice of very real challenges that, left unaddressed, could have very serious impacts on its residents and the future of our city.

In a rapidly changing world, Paris has seen the impacts of a changing climate, shifts in global population, and political and economic trends. But, in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, Paris has taken tangible steps to ensure that the City of Light shines for decades and centuries to come. By embracing urban resilience, we are creating opportunities out of these perceived challenges, and building a stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and ultimately more resilient city. On 100RC’s 5th Anniversary, I want to acknowledge the role that 100RC has played in facilitating and shaping how Paris approaches our risk and opportunities as we endeavor to build the Paris of the future.

When Paris joined the 100RC network in 2014, the city had already started to see real and dire impacts of climate change. As climate change intensifies, Paris has seen very real and dire impacts increase in just a few short years. Deadly heat waves and disruptive flooding have grown increasingly acute, emissions are harming our air quality, and water resources are growing limited. In 2015, Paris saw a new threat emerge. Deadly terrorist attacks exposed a need for our city to think and plan outside of traditional silos to foster a more cohesive and inclusive society – especially with our surrounding region.

As our partnership with 100RC has helped demonstrate, addressing climate change and natural resources alone will not suffice in creating the Paris of the future. For communities and government alike, a focus on urban resilience has enabled us to think holistically about the challenges that Paris may face in the decades ahead.

Through the development of a citywide Resilience Strategy, Paris has brought government together in new and important ways – fostering collaboration and initiatives that would have otherwise never surfaced. Throughout this process, Paris has embedded a mindset of transforming risk into opportunity, facing challenges head-on to improve the quality of life for residents in the short and long term.

In October 2017, Paris released its Resilience Strategy, which lays out a vision for a city that relies on its residents, adapts its infrastructure, mobilizes its collective intelligence and the territories that surround it to turn the challenges of the next century into opportunities. The Strategy will have a tangible impact on the lives of Parisians for decades to come, but will also have a very real impact on our city in the short-term.

One initiative exemplifies this new resilience mindset. Beginning in 2018, Paris launched a new program to transform school courtyards into green oases – as part of an effort to both address climate risks and bolster social inclusion efforts, while providing educational benefits to children and families in Paris. In order to make use of the 800,000m2 of school courtyard space in our control, currently covered with impermeable asphalt, these pilots will create green space in the school courtyards – providing much needed greening and shade structures in communities to assist in cooling efforts during heat waves, retain water in the event of rain to assist in flood mitigation, and be open as a community asset to foster a more cohesive, inclusive society.

With few Parisians living more than 200m from a school courtyard, the scale of this project has the potential to impact nearly every resident in every Arrondissement of Paris.  This project exemplifies our resilience mindset – extracting multiple benefits from a single investment and seeking to address multiple risks simultaneously.

The Resilience Strategy lays out a number of ambitious, necessary initiatives like this project – each with the potential to not just alter the future of our city, but serve as a model as other cities seek to tackle similar challenges in the decades ahead. The resilience approach and partnership with 100RC have provided invaluable partnerships across sectors, built connections and learning opportunities with other cities around the world, and have provided us with the support to embed resilience into how we operate as a city.

As we look ahead at the Paris of the future, we see a city that fulfills our motto of Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, bears out the vision of this Resilience Strategy, and continues its rich partnership with 100RC for many years ahead. Paris will continue to nurture a resilience mindset within our government, organizations and communities and will be an eager flag bearer for other cities who want to adopt a similar approach.