Chapter 4


At the onset of the 20th century, 51 million people visited the Paris 1900 World Exposition
and marvelled at the splendor of the lighting display at the Palace of Electricity.1 A
coal‐fired steam engine powered the generator to produce the electricity for the display
and over the next 115 years coal use would continually escalate as the world population
exploded and societies progressively increased the intensity of energy use. Over time,
oil and natural gas provided additional fossil fuel options to power industrialization and
economic advancement. Between 1750 and 2011, human activity has been responsible
for the release of approximately 2 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide, of which 40%
remains in the atmosphere with the remainder sequestered by ocean and land sinks.2

By the year 2015, in contrast to the majority of the metropolises on Earth, the City of
Light was no longer illuminated by lamps using electricity generated by the combustion
of fossil fuels. When representatives of the 196 nations of the Conference of Parties
assembled in Paris in December of 2015 for the 21 annual climate change meeting,
the electricity that powered the lighting, communications, audio and visual systems,
the elevators and escalators and all manner of appliances and devices required to
accommodate the delegates and facilitate discourse was largely produced by 0 emissions
sources. By 2012, a full 92% of the electricity consumed in France was generated by a
network of nuclear, hydro, wind and solar installations with nuclear power providing
77% of the total supply.3

The selection of Paris as the host city of the 2015 UN Climate Conference was fitting
in that the meeting took place in the same city that, 115 years earlier, was the sight of
a world exposition with a focus on the latest innovations that had evolved out of the
Industrial Revolution and on the potential of human inquiry and ingenuity to shape a
prosperous future. The meeting took place within the borders of a country that had
already begun to decarbonize economic sectors and curtail greenhouse gas emissions
while maintaining a high standard of living. As of 2012, the per capita rate of emissions
of France was 6.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per person.4 This figure was 36% of the US
per capita rate, 27% of the rate for Canada, and 22% of the per capita GHG emissions
rate of Australia.5


  1. Chandler, A. 1987. The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Retrieved from Oct. 2015
  2. IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pacharui and L.A. Meyer (eds)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland.
  3. Electricity production by sources in France 1960-2012. (2014). Bluenomics. Retrieved from
  4. WRI. (2014). Climate data explorer. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from Accessed April 2016.
  5. Ibid.