Outdoor dining has been popular in France since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but next year, it may be a bit more difficult to do when the weather turns less-than-ideal. The French government committed to banning outdoor heaters at restaurants and bars as part of a package of measures meant to make the country more environmentally friendly.
Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili said that outdoor heating or air conditioning was an “ecological aberration,” according to the BBC, which reported that the ban isn’t set to go into effect until after the winter, in order to give restaurants that have been hit by the pandemic more time to recover economically.
Rennes, in northwest France, outlawed heated terraces in January, becoming the first French municipality to do so. Though Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has previously said she wouldn’t ban outdoor heaters because of how it would harm businesses, some residents there have called for them to be banned over concerns about gas and electricity use. Jacques Boutault, mayor of Paris’s second arrondissement, called for an outdoor heating ban in March, telling Euronews that if Paris wants to reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, then it has to begin by not “using pointless energy like these heaters.”
There are about 12,500 heated terraces in Paris alone, per the BBC. Heated terraces became especially commonplace in the city after bans on indoor smoking went into effect. Thierry Salomon, vice president of the French sustainable energy advocacy group NegaWatt, estimates that one terrace with five gas heaters running for 14 hours a day from November to March produces 13.6 tonnes of CO2, “the equivalent of what a new car would emit if it went around the Earth three times.”
Others have pointed out that heating—and cooling—the outdoor air is extremely inefficient. Speaking to reporters on Monday after announcing this latest climate package, Pompili added that it was wrong for stores to “air-condition the streets” in the summer by keeping their doors open. “Neither should terraces be heated in winter so people can feel warm as they drink coffee,” she said. As part of the environmental package, all heated or air-conditioned buildings open to the public will have to keep their doors closed, so as not to waste energy.
The environmental efforts announced Monday were recommended by the Citizens’ Convention on Climate, a group of 150 randomly selected French citizens that was set up by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019. The announced measures also include the creation of two natural parks and a nature reserve, and calls for building owners to improve insulation and not install new coal- or oil-burning furnaces.