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Nicolas Bouchot, an urbanist and president of the Greater Paris Metropolitan Development Alliance, explained how climate change is affecting urban transformation and why residents should be involved.

In 2021, the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic came to the fore for all mankind. However, environmental issues have not lost their relevance either. Experts are convinced: even in such a difficult period, it is necessary to think about the transformation of cities, not only aimed at creating a comfortable environment for life, but also reducing the impact on the climate.

Nicolas Bouchot, urbanist, researcher and president of the Greater Paris Metropolitan Development Alliance, took part in Moscow Urban Forum, Which took place at Zaryadye on July 1-4. In an interview with, he told how Moscow is like the French capital, how the city’s residents can influence the development of the city, and why soon everyone will have to deal with the problems caused by global warming.

– You have already been to Russia several times. In your opinion, what experience can Moscow share in protecting the environment and improving the ecological situation?

– Moscow not only changed its approach to waste disposal and wastewater treatment, but also completely rebuilt and reorganized public spaces, drew attention to the greening of the city. Here I see a resemblance to the rationalization of Paris in the 19th century [the reorganization of the urban structure led by Eugene Haussmann. – Approx. ed.] only with a scale of XXI. It’s just incredible.

I remember how 10 years ago people complained about the poor organization of garbage collection. The situation has undoubtedly changed. The same applies to public transport. The better the urban transport infrastructure is, the fewer cars everywhere, the fewer public areas are occupied by parking. There is, of course, a strong commitment to green and blue infrastructure. It is also important that the basic infrastructure is being transformed here, for example, the same sewage system. If the city is beautiful only in the center, and all the dirt merges in the suburbs, nothing good will come of it.

I have worked with municipalities in several cities, including internationally with Urban20 (the G20 city group). And the Russian capital has always been distinguished by a firm determination to develop. Interestingly, Moscow is located, as it were, at the junction of the developed world and developed cities with cities in developing countries (for example, Istanbul). Moscow’s experience can be applied even in those cities that are just beginning to transform and introduce new services in difficult conditions.

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– Can you compare the experience of Moscow with the “Greater Paris”?

– In Paris, we had a slightly similar situation to Moscow 10-15 years ago. Then there was also an understanding that it was necessary to change the urban system in accordance with the conditions of competition and attractiveness of the 21st century and to revise the legacy of the past decades – the public transport system.

In Paris, the environment was also one of the main factors of transformation. Many of the changes were related to the need to move towards urban systems with low carbon emissions. After 10 years, something has been successfully implemented. For example, large research clusters have been created, a metro has been built and a circular public transport system has been created. However, the new metro system remains institutionally extremely complex.

We also have a number of organizations, for example, dealing with waste management, which are now cooperating with Moscow and with Russia. Large funds are also being invested in the modernization of the water supply infrastructure. However, the system here is slightly different, and the problems are very similar. It is always very interesting how the transfer of knowledge and experience takes place, especially between Moscow and Paris.

– To what extent are modern cities ready to create a climate strategy (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), in particular Moscow?

– Moscow has demonstrated a real ability to transform, and on a large scale and not only in the very center of the city. This suggests that the Russian capital may change in the next decade. After all, no one is truly prepared to face the severe climate change we are already seeing.

In the next decade, cities must be even more resilient to extreme climate impacts, look for ways to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions (if global warming continues at the same rate), and limit the impact of the construction industry or the digital sphere.

These are not new problems, only the intensity of the shocks and the scale of the necessary transformations have changed. Collaboration between cities and within cities can help find new solutions. They can be offered by experts, researchers, scientists, heads of states and cities, and even residents themselves.

– How can businesses and citizens be involved in the creation of a climate strategy?

– If you do not involve citizens or businesses, you will get a formal climate strategy that will not be implemented. How to do it is another question. Is this possible in a metropolis with a population of 30-50 million people? This is a serious challenge, but we have a unique example of Tokyo that somehow succeeds.

There are many ways people can participate in shaping the future, including venues such as the Moscow Urban Forum.

For example, in Paris 10 years ago, we could not agree on which metro system to use – the original or the simplified one. In the end, everyone sat down at the same table, state and many private companies, and decided to organize a public debate, broad consultation with the participation of the public under the control of the national authorities. This lasted three months.

There were many meetings, tens of thousands of citizens attended public hearings. Finally, we came to a consensus. It has proven to be so resilient that it has survived everything that has happened in the past 10 years: changes of government at the national, local and municipal levels, pandemic, terrorist attacks and the 2021 football championship. Now investments have already arrived and construction is underway. This is a huge project worth almost 40 billion euros.

– Have the climate issues faded into the background because of the pandemic?

– No, unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has become another problem that we need to address. Another pandemic may begin, and the problems of global warming are little by little noticeable everywhere right now. I believe it will take a lot of energy from everyone in the coming weeks, months and years to tackle them individually and collectively. The only thing the authorities can do is to support the energy of the people.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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