In August 2003, a heatwave saw Europe swelter in the highest temperatur­es it had seen in more than 500 years. France was particular­ly badly hit, with 15,000 people dying in the record heat. Around a third of these were in Paris, which had to resort to storing bodies in refrigerat­ed lorries as morgues overflowed. In 2019, another heatwave hit the city. This time, however, it was prepared. A city-wide network of 100 ‘cooling islands’ — spaces such as parks and pools linked by walkways – had been created, so that all residents should be able to walk to a cool island or walkway within seven minutes. Residents can locate them using a smartphone app. The city has also developed a district cooling system using water from the river Seine to lower temperatur­es in buildings. This and other targeted advice and facilities for the elderly, young and homeless meant that in 2019, just 300 Parisians died due to the heat. The city is continuing to ramp up its efforts, according to Dan Lert, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of ecological transition. ‘The summer of 2003 will be normal in future,’ he says. ‘A study published in September predicted 50°C in Paris, so we have to prepare for that – it is our worst-case scenario.’ The cool-islands network is being expanded, with another 300 locations. The plan is to extend this system throughout the city, with a 200-kilometre network that will hopefully reduce the take-up of air conditioni­ng, the use of which can increase temperatur­es during heatwaves by a further 2–3°C. The water quality of the Seine is being improved so that people can swim in the river to cool off. The city is hosting the summer Olympic Games in 2024 – open-water swimming events will be held in the Seine, after which these areas will remain open to the public. Schoolyard­s are being transforme­d by planting trees, installing water features and making the paving lighter to reflect heat. These will be opened up after classes have finished so that other people can use them to cool down. The river Bièvre, which was gradually covered over during the early 20th century due to the smell from pollution from tanneries, is to be opened up. A feasibilit­y study is underway and Lert expects to complete the first section in 2026. The city is planning to simulate a heat emergency by the end of 2023, involving the city’s police, hospitals, firefighte­rs and energy and transport providers, as well as the national weather service, Meteo-France, and climate change research institute IPSL. ‘This exercise will allow us to simulate the different impacts on Paris’s territory and to improve the preparatio­n of public services in case of extreme crisis,’ Lert says.

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