Patio heaters targeted in Europe's climate fight
By Pete Harrison
LONDON (Reuters) - The patio heaters warming drinkers and diners on the pavements of northern Europe are also warming the planet's climate and should be banned, according to a European Parliament report that could be adopted on Thursday.
Environmentalists argue that heaters not only pump heat directly into the atmosphere but also climate-damaging CO2, while owners of pubs and bars say they need them to help retain customers driven outside by smoking bans.
"Patio heaters are scandalous because they are burning fossil fuels in the open sky, so producing vast quantities of CO2 with very little heat benefit," said European parliamentarian Fiona Hall, who wrote the report criticizing the pace of energy reforms in Europe.
"We urge the Commission to set a timetable for completely taking off the market some appliances that are intrinsically inefficient, such as patio heaters," she added.
The report will not lead directly to legislation, but it seeks to guide the European Commission on parliamentarians' priorities.
Any ban would be fiercely opposed by UK pub owners, whose businesses suffered after a smoking ban last year and are now struggling with weakening consumer spending and rising costs.
The heaters are also popular in many other European countries.
"It's ironic this comes at a time when we've all invested heavily in slightly heated areas after the government banned smoking," said Giles Thorley, Chief Executive of Britain's biggest pubs owner Punch Taverns, which has around 8,400 venues.
"But it's a long way from legislation," he told Reuters.
According to UK government statistics, outdoor heaters produce about 22,200 tons of CO2 a year, compared with around 21 million tons from household heating and hot water.
The report will be debated later on Wednesday by the European Parliament, with a vote to adopt it on Thursday.
Friends of the Earth's Director Tony Juniper said: "If the UK government is committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it must be prepared to back EU proposals to improve energy efficiency, which include banning these carbon-belching monstrosities."
(Additional reporting by Marc Jones, editing by Will Waterman)