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Building Smart Zero-Net Carbon Cities: Paris Climate Action Plan and the Language of Cause & Effect

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

In episode 11 of Think Big, I'm taking you to the future to find out what is in store for the city of Paris in 2050.

Today is an opportunity for you to listen to me dive deep into a global environmental issue that will inevitably impact the future of urban design, architecture and planning for the next 30 years. Given that I live in France I thought it would be a good example to put some context into understanding some of the strategies cities will implement going Carbon Neutral.

It is also the perfect opportunity for you to learn and explore new vocabulary, discuss language for cause and effect/consequence as well as take a closer look at Zero and First Conditional in a context you understand.

We discuss:

✨ The Paris Agreement and what that means

✨ The Paris Climate Action Plan

✨ How Buildings and the city of Paris will change

✨ Language of cause and effect

Books & Resources

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

✨ Extended Show Notes and Full Transcript:

Ready to take action to speak up and share your voice?

Ready to start making a BIG impact on your English & building the architecture career you want?

You know it's time to make a change and you've got to start somewhere. In the evaluation and action plan, you will get my best tips so you stop the self-doubt and start taking action now. Take me to the action plan


Table of Contents Books and Resources


Transcript Images of Expressions


equipped (adjective) - describes something that contains things that are necessary

Haussmannian buildings - Haussmann architecture features large, elegant buildings with stone facades and wrought iron details. The quintessential Parisian-style building.

state of art (adjective) belonging or relating to the most recent stage of technological development

entity -

retrofit - (verb) add (a component or accessory) to something that did not have it when it was manufactured

reimagine - change something to be done differently

emission targets -

sequester carbon - (verb) absorb atmospheric carbon

in accordance with - to conform with something or follow rules/regulations

impervious surfaces - surfaces like concrete or asphalt that don't allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground

percolate - move through

reclaim - retrieve or recover something previously lost

mobility - the ability to move or be moved freely and easily

counterparts - a person or thing that corresponds to or has the same function as another person or thing in a different place or situation.


look good on paper - it looks like a good concept but the person might be expressing doubts about it being realistic or feasible

keep a close eye on something - keep following the progress of something

point you in the direct of (something) - let you know where you can find something

Phrasal verbs

step up (something) - increase the amount of something

go into - explain in more detail

look to (something) - see something as a role model or example

point out - make note of something



Quick Find Snippets - Take me straight to these sections


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to Think Big Episode 10

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:13

Hello Big Thinkers and welcome to episode eleven of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, English teacher and communication coach for ArchiEnglish. I coach people in the built design profession who speak English as a second language to help them build outstanding communication skills and feel more confident to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and upcoming courses, at

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:44

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, the podcast will be for you if you are an intermediate to advanced language learner working in the built design profession or as a student and you speak English as a second language and you want to improve your listening skills and get some tips about the language of architecture (which by the way isn't just about learning the names of buildings and spaces - it's also about how you say it and why it's important. For example, how to be persuasive, how to sell your ideas!

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 01:20

On the podcast we also as well as learning and motivation, each fortnight I release one episode around different topics. Sometimes the episodes are interviews with amazing guests from the industry or sometimes it's me discussing topics that my audience are interested in or discussing what want to build vocabulary around. In my work as a landscape architect, I'm always thinking about how the language I'm using could be taught in a way that could help my clients and my audience much better when they are trying to communicate their ideas. I also try to link some of the important language points that you might be learning as a learner to certain aspects of your job or what you need to talk about as a student, as an architect, landscape architect. I'm a big fan of learning languages and consolidating your learning in an enjoyable way so it means listening to it in a context you need and is relevant to you. As a language learner myself (I'm learning French and I just started learning Portuguese) I really (try to) understand the ups and the downs so for me the podcast is a space for you to be able to listen, reflect and also to practice so that you feel more confident when you're learning the language or when you're trying to consolidate certain things for certain aspects of your life.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 02:52

As always, you'll find the transcript. vocabulary and episode show notes at and then in this episode's I have highlighted in green the language of cause and effect and in purple the key vocabulary for the episode. So grab a coffee and join me for the next little while as we talk about the future of Paris.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 03:15

Now, there is no doubt that climate change is something that we as-built design professionals have in the forefront of our minds. In 2015 196 Parties made a very significant agreement at COP 21 21st Conference of the Parties (or “COP”) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Wow, it's a bit of a mouthful! And what they did, they agreed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees celsius, but preferably what they'd like to do is limit that increases to only1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Since I live in France, (in the south of France) and Paris has to be one of my favourite cities, I thought what better way to discuss what cities are doing to respond to the agreement by discussing the Future of Paris by looking at the Plan for Paris 2050. This weekend is also the festival for gardens and urban agriculture in Paris where urban agriculture, biodiversity and participation in urban agriculture and gardens will be celebrated with many events.

I'm going to go into the context and what will influence future development in Paris and I'll point you in the direction of a few resources and proposals that may have a significant impact on the future development of Paris. But also thinking about what the world will be doing in the next 30 years. In other words, we're going to look at the cause or the influence and the consequence. I think it's important to know more about global politics and concerns so that you have a better idea as a built design professional understanding what your responsibility is to sustainability to your work to sharing your ideas with the rest of the world.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 05:12

This episode will be great for you to want to learn more about the future of Paris but also if you want to hear more about how the language of consequences and cause and effect can be used. I've chosen this because it's something I realise (in conversations with a lot of my clients) we need to do a lot especially when we explain our decisions to clients and colleagues within the profession particularly if those decisions are being influenced by bigger picture ideas or global politics. I've spoken about this topic with several of my clients who live in France but also outside of France and the discussion has been a great critical analysis of what is happening in the world, what governments are doing, what governments are not doing and the future of the climate. At the end of the episode, I'm going to share some of these real concrete examples of language that you might use to explain consequences which you'll also hear throughout the episode when I discuss what is happening in Paris.

So let's dive straight into the Episode to learn more.

The possible future of Paris

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:25

The year is 2050 and it's the first time you've visited Paris since 2015. You are standing on Rue de Rivoli outside the Parisian Townhall, admiring the Paris skyline. While the Haussmannian buildings are familiar to you, something less familiar adorns the skyline. Smart buildings, covered in green vegetation and equipped with state of art technology. Due to our growing interest in the impact of climate change the city has become a cycling-friendly city where a park is never more than a 15-minute stroll away.

You walk towards the Arc Triomphe along the Champs-Élysées through parks and along streets filled with pedestrians and cyclists under the thick tree canopy. It's a very different Paris from the one that you remember.

And I invite you to have a look at the photo that I have put into the shownotes for today's episode. It's the very green, vegetated vision for Paris. So this will help you (when you have a look at this image) it will help you visualise some of the things that I'm talking about in this episode.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 07:33

As a result of The City of Paris embracing this ambitious objective to be carbon-neutral Paris in 2050 it has been completely transformed from the city we see today into a carbon-neutral Smart City. Carbon neutral or Net Zero Carbon - is a term that we use to describe the state of an entity (such as a company, service, product or even in this case a city), where the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world or by planting trees to sequester the carbon The aim is to strike a balance between our ecosystem’s natural capacity to absorb greenhouse gas emissions and also the irreducible emissions generated by human activities between now and

2050. This can be achieved through interventions such as tree planting, green spaces and vegetated buildings to sequester the carbon or absorb the carbon and clean the air, conversion of energy sources from fossil fuel reliance to renewable sources, retrofitting old buildings integrate several energy-production techniques and as we see in Vincent Callebaut's vision building high-rise buildings with positive energy outputs. It's not just about the implementation of the physical structures, it's also about encouraging inhabitants to adopt eco-friendly standards of living in their daily lives. So this might be making changes from their daily lives, making changes to their diets, making changes to their routine, being more engaged with things in the city by being engaged with things like urban agriculture.

Other resources

Now some other resources that you might find interesting if this is a topic that interests you. If you're an urbanist fighting climate change, which I hope you are, then you'll enjoy The Green Urbanist Podcast which is hosted by Ross O'Ceallaigh. He is Irish and he is living in the UK and his show explores how architects, planners, policymakers and designers can make cities more sustainable, healthy and happy. I think you'll especially enjoy the most recent episode titled Adapting Buildings to a New Climate Era and Retrofitting for Net Zero Carbon. So in this episode he talks about all the changes that we need to make to current buildings in order to be ready for the climate crisis. Since I'm only going to touch on a small aspect of the global climate crisis in today's episode, then it's a great place to start if you enjoy listening to podcasts.

What is the Paris Agreement

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:35

The Paris Agreement often referred to as the Paris Accords or the Paris Climate Accords, is an international treaty on climate change, adopted in 2015. It covers things like climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance. So when I say mitigation, it's, we are trying to reduce the effects of climate change. Now the Agreement was negotiated by 196 parties at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference near Paris, in France.

Under the Agreement, each nation is required to set, to plan, and to regularly report on its contributions. The interesting thing is, is there is no obligation for a country to establish specific emission targets under the Agreement, but each target should exceed previous objectives.

Something that you might find interesting is to see what your government is doing in response to the Paris Accords or The Paris Agreement to see if they really are taking action that they should be or if you disagree with what they are doing.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:48

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges (in my opinion) it's one of the most serious challenges that mankind has ever experienced. Then on top of that, going through a global pandemic we recognise that there are a lot of things that are out of our control. Global temperatures will rise as a consequence of human pollution of the planet over the last two and a half centuries, in particular, we're thinking about the last 50 years since the industrial revolution.

If we don't take drastic action now, then we will face the consequences in the future. In recent years, we've noticed things like extreme weather, floods, droughts, heatwaves, pollution peaks, and they have caused a serious strain on our city. Cities must be reimagined to protect the health of the environment and people. We need to think more seriously about reducing impervious surfaces,(the surfaces that don't allow rain to percolate through to the ground) retrofitting existing buildings with innovative technology to improve energy efficiency, we need to think about planting trees and implementing innovative and creative design solutions to reduce pollution, improve air quality and improve the overall health of the planet.

Paris Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 13:12

Paris in particular (for me) has a key role to play in building a carbon-neutral world. Given that Paris hosted the..the COP21 in 2015 and witnessed the signing by all the states of the first universal agreement on climate change then it carries a duty to lead by example, it needs to lead by example in the implementation of the main principles of the Paris Agreement in its territory and hopefully, people will look to Paris as a model for what they should be doing in their cities. Obviously, each city needs to adapt based on the context but Paris really does have. a key role to play being something to look to in the world.

The Paris Climate Action Plan

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:00

As a result of that we have the Paris Climate Action Plan. So, the Paris Climate Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy for lowering the city's carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement's striving goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. As a result of the Paris Agreement, the City Council then adapted the plan in March 2018. This climate action plan not only addresses emissions produced in the city, but also the emissions embedded within goods and services consumed by the city. The Plan was produced using 3 important pieces of information:

  • A review of the last 10 years on climate action

  • Recommendations from the citizens’ conference entitled - What individual and collective contributions can change our lifestyles?; and

  • The Report entitled “A new era for Paris" which outlines one of the possible trajectories required for Paris to become carbon-neutral by 2050

Something is common amongst all the reports. If we want to be prepared for the future, we must make a collective effort now. Action requires cooperation between economic stakeholders, cities and citizens.

The Paris Climate Action Plan outlines key actions for the future of Paris including:

  • Energy transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewables

  • Public transport

  • Buildings (Retrofitting and New Development)

  • Urban Planning

  • Waste

  • Food

  • Air Quality

  • Carbon Offsetting

I've included links to the Plan if you want to take a closer look.

To further visualise the plan it's worth investigating Vincent Cellebaut's vision for Paris. The architect and his team proposed 8 different prototype's for different multi-use structures buildings to be built throughout the different arrondissements in Paris - each providing key functions.

Does everyone agree?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 18:22

Not necessarily.

To establish a mandate for action through citizen support, Mayor Hidalgo called for a citizens vote on the Climate Action Plan. When The City conducted an outreach campaign 95% of 70,000 voters said ‘yes’ to the plan. While a small percentage disagree, unless we take action now, we can only speculate on the possibilities. Not taking action might mean having to give up luxuries like being able to find car parking spaces but considering that Paris was the host of the climate agreement, it's imperative that it sets an example.

When I spoke to my french clients about the plan, we adopted a critical view. One said "It looks good on paper, but I have doubts about Paris having the right climate to be as green as Singapore. When I look at the plan, It makes me wonder if it will be feasible.

These conversations made me think that it is important to look at these plans with a critical eye, while also keeping a close eye on how the plan is implemented and how it will impact on development in the future.

Key Statistics and Crucial Trends Driving Carbon Neutral

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 19:55

There are some key statistics and crucial trends for why we need to go carbon neutral that I want to point out to you.

Buildings represent 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions; including28% in operational emissions and 11% in building materials and construction.

What's also important in Paris is that since 2001, a policy of promoting sustainable mobility and reclaiming public land for active and shared mobility has been implemented in Paris. What this has done is led to a reduction of over 50% for the majority of atmospheric pollutants and 39% for greenhouse gases.

This policy has resulted in the development of cycle paths (+700 km), the creation of the Vélib’ self-service bicycle-hire with 23,600 bicycles) and the Autolib’ self-service electric car-hire (1,100 stations) schemes in central and greater Paris, the extension of the Métro underground rail lines around Paris, and the creation of 24 km of tram lines. So positive statistics are showing how we can make an impact.

There are four crucial trends driving zero carbon buildings all over the world: decarbonization, electrification, efficiency and digitalization. What is also important is the provision of green spaces, street trees and vegetated rooftops. I'm going to explain what each of these is and why you should care.

Decarbonizing This means the energy supply is changed from fossil fuels to renewable resources.

Carbon neutrality can only be attained if Paris obtains its energy from 100% renewable sources. If we switch to renewable energy sources, we will reduce the pressure on the environment and climate. It's as simple as that. However, that comes at an enormous cost. To achieve this, the City of Paris has undertaken to speed up the greening of its urban heating network energy mix by setting a 75% renewable energy consumption target for the system in 2030 and 100% in 2050. In order to attain the 100% renewable energy target it will require a radical transformation of the current energy system at both local and national levels. Indeed, the Paris energy system is still largely dependent on fossil fuels dependent on

depends on

Electrification - This means to shift from using fossil fuels for heating and cooking to electricity and of course electricity that is powered by renewable sources. A big part of building electrification is the development of heat pumps.

In a fully electrified home or office, furnaces and boilers that today run on natural gas, propane or heating oil can be replaced with ground- or air-source heat pumps. Gas-powered water heaters can be replaced with heat pump water heaters. And in the kitchen, gas-powered ovens and burners can be replaced with electric ranges and induction cooktops.

Heat pumps are much more efficient than the equipment they replace. Air-source heat pumps or heat pump water heaters are three to five times more energy-efficient than their natural-gas counterparts. Electrification of buildings will play a big part in moving the world towards a carbon-neutral future.

Energy efficiency

Focuses on things such as increased insulation and higher efficiency equipment to reduce overall electrical demand. By 2050, more than one million dwellings and over 50 million m² of businesses, offices, hotels and public facilities will need to have been thermally renovated. These renovations will enable significant reductions in the energy bills for buildings (hot water, heating and electricity) while also adapting them to more extreme summer weather conditions.


Smart buildings will contain technology such as advanced sensing and controls where sensors are able to understand more about what's happening in the environment and adapt heating cooling and airflow accordingly, we will also see more advanced systems integration, data analytics and energy optimization to reduce energy use and demand.

Due to advanced technology, the potential energy savings from smart buildings will be significant. Basic automated building controls can save 10-15% of energy in commercial buildings.

Greenspaces biodiversity and more space for pedestrians and cyclists

In 2016, the Council of Paris launched a large project to rejuvenate Paris's iconic squares in order to place pedestrians and bicyclists at the center of city planning. The objective of this plan is to relieve the squares, make access to public transportation and multimodality easier, create pleasant green spaces that people will want to spend time in, promote the architectural and historical heritage of the squares, allow cultural and sporting events, promote urban agriculture and shared gardens and reduce bicycle and pedestrian congestion. In one visualisation for the city of Paris in 2030 we see the area surrounding the Arc Triomph surrounded by parks, trees and safer cycling routes.

Overall objectives for urban greening and response to climate warming include:

  • protection of residents and users from urban overheating.

  • anticipation and management of flood risks.

  • preservation and development of biodiversity.

  • prevention of the scarcity of water resources.

Another important plan The Biodiversity Plan of the City of Paris and the actions implemented from the plan will allow the creation of ponds and the entire revegetation program (+30 additional ha) to strongly contribute to the maintenance and strengthening of biodiversity corridors.

Walking is the most common mode of transportation in central Paris, accounting for nearly half of all trips. In 2017, the Paris Pedestrian Strategy (Strategy for Pedestrians) was adopted to increase the number of continuous footpaths and make it easier for pedestrians to access roads while also improving their travelling experience.

In keeping with this attitude, the "Paris Breathes" (Paris Respire) program will provide "breathing spaces" (espaces de respiration) for Paris residents and visitors in all districts of Paris on every Sunday and public holiday between now and 2024. This was something I experience on my last trip to Paris.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced in April 2020 that cars would be banned on Rue de Rivoli throughout summer 2020. This is one step closer to making the ban permanent.

Retrofitting Buildings

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 30:29

As I was saying earlier, retrofitting buildings is going to be one of the biggest challenges that Paris will face in terms of becoming net-zero carbon.

The renovation of 1 million dwellings between now and 2050 is a massive challenge that requires a faster rate of execution while further improving the quality. The building stock in Paris is generally ageing, and 70% of the buildings are particularly energy-inefficient. Consequently, the City of Paris is setting all territorial stakeholders the aim of renovating 100% of the existing building stock to make it compatible with very low energy consumption standards between now and 2050.

Over a ten-year period, the City of Paris has managed to reverse the trend and progressively reduce the environmental impact of buildings in Paris: between 2010 and the end of this year, 30,000 social housing units and 300 schools will have been renovated and more than 50,000 dwellings in jointly owned properties will have been helped to complete their renovation formalities. As 80% of the building stock was built before the introduction of the first thermal regulations in 1974, and less than 1% of new floor area is constructed each year, renovating buildings in a sustainable manner remains a key issue in the efforts to attain carbon neutrality in Paris.

The difference between ‘will have’ and ‘will have been.’ Will have tells us about the action which is completed in the future but ‘will have been’ tells us about action which is unfinished but will be finished.

‘Will have’ is the Future Perfect Tense. It consists of two things: first is the simple future tense i.e. ‘will have’ and the second is the past participle of the main verb. For example, I+ will have+ past participle i.e. I will have finished. ‘Will Have Been’ is the Future Perfect Continuous Tense. It also consists of two main things: first is the future perfect i.e. ‘will have been’ and second is the present participle (base form + ing).

Aiming to renovate all homes in Paris between now and 2050 will require the completion of renovations at a whopping rate of 40,000 private dwellings per year with minimum savings of 50% from 2030. The energy-efficiency projects of residents of jointly owned properties in Paris currently receive support from the City and the Paris Climate Agency, These programmes will need to be stepped up in order to reach those ambitious targets that are in the plan.

Conclusion Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 35:00

To sum up today's episode, Today, I've only touched on some of the major aspects of the Paris Plan that are being implemented. It's worth checking out the documents in the show notes if you want to find out more.

The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 nations in December 2015, offers a method for developed countries so that we can to assist developing ones in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. It also establishes a framework for the transparent monitoring, reporting, and ratcheting up of nations' individual and collective climate goals. In order to understand your responsibility as a built design professional it's important to ask the important questions to know - what role can you play in ensuring you make a commitment.

If you enjoyed the episode please share it with someone and take a look at the show notes on Stick around if you want to hear a little more about the language of cause and effect used in today's episode.

Language to look out for from Today's Episode

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 36:26

In today's episode transcript you'll find several examples of Zero Conditional and First conditional sentences highlighted in purple as well as cause and effect language.

Zero conditional - event and result that is always true, scientific or objective facts

if /when) + present tense if clasue | present tense result clause

if /when) + past tense | past tense


When The City conducted an outreach campaign to describe the Plan for Paris, 95% of 70,000 voters said ‘yes’ to the plan.

First conditional - possible future (situation and a result in the future)

if clause (present simple if clause) + future simple result clause


If we switch to renewable energy sources, we will reduce the pressure on the environment and climate.



Unless we take action, we are heading for a challenging future.

Cause and consequence


as a result of + noun As a result of the growing concerns of climate change Government's are committing to take more action to tackle climate change.


As a result of The City of Paris embracing an ambitious objective to be carbon-neutral, Paris in 2050 has been completely transformed from the city we see today into a carbon-neutral Smart City.

as a result of + gerund

As a result of increasing environmental catastrophes, it's cause for concern.

because + subject + verb

Because Paris is taking action ...

because of + noun

Because of the plan created by Vincent Callebaut Architects, we are able to envisage what Paris might look like.

Thanks to the plan

given that + subject

considering + subject or considering that

considering that Paris was the host of the climate agreement, it's imperative that it sets an example.

due to + noun

Due to our growing interest in the impact of climate change

since/as - for the reason that or because of

Since I'm only touching on one small aspect of the issue, I recommend finding out more from other sources too.

As I'm only touching on one small aspect of the issue, I recommend finding out more from other sources too.

Transitions or Linking verbs

accordingly - we have to discover what the plans are and act accordingly.

as a consequence - The Plan for Paris was implemented, as a consequence, we start to see more actions being implemented.

as a consequence of - As a consequence of the pandemic, more car parking spaces were removed to make way for restaurant terraces so more people could sit in close proximity to each other. consequently - He wasn't listening during the meeting, consequently, he didn't know what he needed to do.

Show the reason for doing something

so that

So that we can understand more about the topic, it's important to weigh up the pros and cons.

in order to understand more about the topic, it's important to weigh up the pros and cons.

I hope you found a few of these expressions useful and you're feeling inspired to find out more about Paris and what your city is doing to make a commitment to Net-Zero Carbon. If you enjoyed this episode share it without who might find it useful and join me next fortnight for another episode of Think Big English for Architects.


The Paris Agreement

Long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy of the European Union and its Member States

Paris Climate Action Plan

Paris Climate Action Plan How to build smart, zero-carbon buildings - and why it matters

Net-zero carbon pledges must be meaningful to avert climate disaster

Wave of net zero emission targets opens window to meeting the Paris Agreement

Towards carbon neutrality in 2050 PARIS, AN AIR OF CHANGE

The Champs-Élysées in 2030

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Have any questions about anything you've heard in today's episode? Send me an email.

Find out more about my 1:1 & coaching programs.

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