Cold comfort: France to ban heaters at outdoor cafés and restaurants

A waiter wearing a face mask serves on the terrace of a café-restaurant (Le Bar du Marche) in Paris on June 2, 2020.
A waiter wearing a face mask serves on the terrace of a café-restaurant (Le Bar du Marche) in Paris on June 2, 2020. © Bertrand Guy, AFP

France's famous outdoor café culture may be set to take a hit when a ban on heaters at outdoor terraces takes effect early next year as part of a push towards a greener economy.


France plans to ban heaters used by restaurants and cafés on outdoor terraces from early 2021 as it accelerates a shift to a low-carbon economy, Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili said on Monday.

“What’s at stake is ending ecologically aberrant practices that lead to totally unjustified energy consumption,” she said on French television.

Because the ban affects a sector already hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, the government will hold off on implementing the new measure until the end of winter to give business time to adapt, she said.

Pompili said officials would also confer with restaurateurs on how to impose the ban.

Restaurateurs began relying more on heated terraces when France extended its indoor smoking ban to restaurants and bars in 2008. But the move dismayed environmental activists, who railed against the wasteful use of electricity or natural gas.

While a handful of French cities have already banned heated terraces, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had previously refused, saying businesses stood to lose a huge chunk of their revenues.

France is among the European countries seeking to ensure that stimulus measures to tackle the economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus also drive a transition to a lower-carbon economy.

"People now understand that we are at risk and that, if we don't do anything, we'll have an ecological crisis after this health crisis," Macron's new Ecology Minister Pompili told French daily Le Monde on Monday.

President Emmanuel Macron pledged €15 billion ($17.63 billion) in new funding for green proposals in June after Green party candidates trounced his party in municipal and local elections.

He has also promised measures including a moratorium on building new commercial zones on the city outskirts to help protect small retailers.

But Macron has been stung by accusations that businesses and poorer households often end up bearing the brunt of the costs for his green ambitions.

A citizens' council on climate

After the "Yellow Vest" anti-government protests threatened to derail his presidency last year, Macron announced the creation of a Citizens' Convention on Climate – whose 150 members include randomly picked members of the public – that pitched dozens of proposals last month.

Among other measures to be introduced by decree in the coming months are that building owners will be encouraged to improve insulation and will be prohibited from installing coal or fuel oil furnaces.

New limits on development will also be rolled out to limit the paving of natural areas, though the government held back on an outright ban of new shopping malls outside cities, a measure demanded by many green activists.

But the announcements, which came after a meeting of Macron's environmental defence council on Monday, got a lukewarm response from some ecology groups.

Clement Senechal of Greenpeace France told AFP the proposals "push back any real change until 2023, after the end of Macron's term".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)


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