Paris ranked European city with highest risk for heat-related death

As heatwaves across Europe become more frequent, France's capital has been listed as the European city where the risk of heat-related death is highest, according to a recent study.

Paris ranked European city with highest risk for heat-related death
Paris during a 2020 heatwave. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Paris has been ranked as the European city with the greatest risk for heat-related deaths, according to a new study published by the Lancet Planet Health.

The study looked at data from 854 cities and urban areas across Europe from January 2000 to December 2019 to analyse rates of excess mortality due to extreme temperatures. 

Paris stood out amongst European cities when looking at the impact of high temperatures on mortality rates, across all age groups. For elderly people aged 85 and over, the study found that excess death was 1.6 times more likely due to heat.

After Paris, Amsterdam and Zagreb had the next highest risk for heat-related deaths.

Experts pointed to a few factors as to why France’s capital would be Europe’s most dangerous city for heat-related death. First, the data included the impacts of the 2003 heat wave, which hit France especially hard. Between 15,000 to 19,000 people died as a result of the extreme heat.

However, due to factors such as the urban heat island effect, which causes large cities to be warm up faster than their less urbanised areas, the city of Paris was sometimes 10C warmer than its surrounding suburbs and urban areas, according to 20 Minutes.

During the 2003 heatwave, Paris recorded an excess mortality of 141 percent due to the high temperatures, in comparison of a 40 percent excess mortality in small to medium sized cities in France, weather reporter Kevin Floury explained to BFMTV.

Part of the reason Paris has suffered so much from high temperatures has to do with its many zinc rooftops that keep heat in, and its lack of green space, as concrete surfaces retain more heat.

In response to the 2003 heatwave, the city created a ‘climate action plan’ in order to limit the impacts of heatwaves. The goals of the plan are to shift Paris away from being a ‘heat island’ and eventually become carbon neutral by 2050.

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

The city plans to invest in greening and tree-planting efforts, among other innovative plans such as building urban solar power plants and using the structures to shade public spaces in parks like Bois de Vincennes.

Now, during heatwaves, the city publishes an interactive map to show people where they can go to cool off, along with maintaining a database of elderly residents, with regular phone calls made on request to check up on them during periods of high-heat.

Nevertheless, according to AFP, Paris “could experience heat waves on average 34 days per year by 2080, compared to 14 days per year in the 2010s”, as such local authorities have begun planning for scenarios of a “Paris at 50C“.

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French energy giant TotalEnergies faces demand to suspend future fossil fuel projects

A coalition of NGOs, joined by the city halls of New York and Paris, on Wednesday presented a demand at a court in the French capital that energy giant TotalEnergies should be ordered to suspend all new hydrocarbon projects worldwide.

French energy giant TotalEnergies faces demand to suspend future fossil fuel projects

The unprecedented demand seeks a court order as a temporary measure for a suspension ahead of giving a full ruling – not before 2024 or 2025 – on forcing the group to bring its strategy in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“TotalEnergies has been aware of the link between the climate crisis and its products for 50 years. We cannot leave them another few months or decades to align themselves, perhaps one day in the future, with the Paris agreement,” said Sebastien Mabile, one of the coalition’s lawyers.

“We are not asking for any sum of money, no seizure (of assets), only alignment measures… to save the habitability of the planet,” he added.

Lawyer Denis Chemla, representing TotalEnergies, accused the coalition of seeking too “distort procedure”, saying their arguments were not “aimed at the judge but at the press”.

The judge is due to announce his decision on July 6th.

The coalition of NGOS began their campaign in 2020 and were joined by the city halls of Paris and New York in 2022, arguing that the firm was failing to take responsibility for the environmental impact of its activities.

The group insists it has constantly strengthened its climate strategy since its first plan in 2018 and plans to devote a third of its investments on low-carbon energies. But it remains dependent on oil and even more so in the future with gas its priority sector.

The coalition hopes to obtain a French equivalent to a case in 2021 when a court in the Netherlands ordered oil giant Shell to accelerate its plan to reduce greenhouse gases after a suit by NGOs. Shell appealed.

TotalEnergies and its chief executive Patrick Pouyanne have become a major target of climate protesters, who staged a noisy action outside the company’s AGM last week.

“The climate is at the heart of our concerns,” Pouyanne told the meeting, saying his group has done more than others to invest in renewables.

But as world oil demand is growing and “if TotalEnergies doesn’t respond to this demand, others will do it for us”.