Urban Transport Emissions in Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games: Issues and Solutions for Paris 2024



climate change mitigation, urban transport decarbonisation, Olympic and Paralympic Games, Paris 2024




Mitigating climate change is an urgent challenge. Urban transport systems are major emitters of greenhouse gases, so decarbonising their operation is vital for achieving net zero emissions by 2050. By increasing travel demand in host countries, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, one of the largest mega-events in the world, tend to exacerbate the problem of transport emissions.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is now committed to delivering climate-positive Games from 2030. As a result, the IOC’s new targets bind future host cities to provide more sustainable solutions, including emission reduction and carbon offsets. Staging mega-events such as the Games creates a significant environmental impact and an opportunity to instigate transformative change for a host city, particularly concerning the transport sector.

This research aims to determine whether hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games can assist in decarbonising urban transport systems for host cities. Can hosting these mega-events provide the impetus for investments to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable transport systems? This paper will examine what Games-related changes can achieve this outcome by conducting a policy review of Paris’ transport strategies to host the 2024 Games.

To address the aims of this research, two preliminary studies have first been conducted:

  • A review of the factors influencing transport emissions for cities hosting the Games
  • A case study on the ability of Paris to meet best practice recommendations in terms of urban transport decarbonisation.

The review's findings highlighted key aspects that play a role in increasing or decreasing transport emissions in cities hosting the Games, namely:

  • Sociopolitical context
  • Passengers' travel behaviour, including the modal share between public transport and private vehicles
  • Investment levels in low-emission transport options, such as public transport, active mobility, and electric vehicles
  • Impact of traffic congestion
  • Implementation of emission regulations and transport management/restrictions
  • Effectiveness of spatial planning strategies for urban and transport infrastructure developed or accelerated for the Games.

Since transport is Paris’ most significant source of air pollution, robust programs and policies are needed to support transport demand and shift towards a more sustainable transport system.  On the one hand, Paris benefits from a high urban density, which favours both walking and public transport. The city also boasts an extensive network of bicycle paths and is stepping up efforts to electrify public transport and improve pedestrian zones. However, the city's urban density leads to heavy traffic congestion, which poses problems for the efficiency and sustainability of transport systems. Lack of social acceptance of certain decarbonisation strategies and operational delays in public transport infrastructure, such as some of the Grand Paris metro lines, also remain an obstacle to climate mitigation.

This paper is now using the background work from these two previous studies to undertake a policy review to examine relevant transport policies/plans/projects initiated or accelerated for the Paris 2024 Games, assess their impact, implementation feasibility and effectiveness, and identify enablers and barriers from a climate mitigation perspective. To comply with the IOC climate targets, Paris is required to deliver carbon-neutral Games. Paris is taking this opportunity to attract funding for more sustainable investments and strategies, including in the transport field.

In the urgent context of climate change, this research is a call for climate action and will contribute to addressing a significant problem. The findings of this project will be useful for key stakeholders involved in organising future Games and can be used to determine the extent to which a host city may successfully steer investments towards climate-positive games and, consequently, identify the changes needed to comply with the IOC's new criteria and leave a positive legacy behind.