France reveals first measures to combat climate change

The French government this week laid out the first package of 146 citizen-created measures that will be put in place in a bid to reduce the country's carbon emissions. Here's a look at what's changing and how it will impact daily life.

France reveals first measures to combat climate change
Mont Ventoux in the southeast will become a regional park. Photo:AFP

What is happening?

To do France’s part in the global fight to tackle climate change – and in response to the 'yellow vest' protesters' calls for more direct democracy – President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 set up a Citizen's Convention on Climate (CCC) of 150 randomly picked members of the public who, after months of discussions, came up with dozens of proposals to reduce France’s carbon emissions.

When the Council presented their proposals in June, Macron promised to retain 146 of the total 149.

This week the government has presented some of the first steps to be taken, including a controversial nationwide ban on heating terraces for the country’s bars and restaurants.

“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 Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told French daily Le Monde on Monday when she presented the first batch of measures.

What will change?

Heating terraces will be banned as of 2021. This is a controversial step that comes amid a national economic downturn caused by the coronavirus health crisis, which hit the restaurant sector especially hard.

READ ALSO 'Energy monsters' – Can Paris cafés survive a ban on heated terraces?


Two new regional natural parks will be constructed in Mont-Ventoux in the southeast and in Somme-Picardy in the north. Alsatians will also get a national reservoir in the Robertsau forest. 

France has committed to protect 30 percent of its land surface from development, and this will be a step to keep with that commitment.

Housing 'decency' will become a legal criteria as of January 1st 2023.

In practice that means that from that date any tenant in a house consuming more than 500 kilowatt of energy per square meter per year can ask the landlord to renovate the building. Heating of buildings currently represents 20 percent of France's greenhouse gases.

Coal and oil heaters will be banned in 2022.
As of January 1st 2022, anyone building a new home will have to choose different means of heating, and anyone whose oil or coal boiler breaks down will have to replace it with a different kind of heater.

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

The measures were adopted by government decree to speed up the legal process, and parliament will receive a bill to vote over “in September-October,” according to Marc Fesnau, Deputy Minister in charge of relations with parliament and citizen participation.

“The bill should be examined in the beginning of 2021,” Fesnau told Le Monde.

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‘Don’t sleep naked’ – How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave

France's increasing heatwaves also bring with them some hot, sticky and uncomfortable nights - so here are some tips from experts to help you sleep when it's hot.

'Don't sleep naked' - How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave

Heatwaves in France – and across Europe – are becoming more frequent and more intense, and climate experts predict that this trend will continue.

As well as scorching days, many heatwaves are also characterised by night-time temperatures that don’t drop – in many places in France temperatures have stayed above 20C all night during recent heatwaves.

Here, then, are a few tips to keep cool overnight, and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing sweat and taking it away from your body. 

Avoid naps, keep a routine

It’s tempting, but avoid any extra napping during the day.

It’s easier to sleep overnight when you go to bed tired than when you’ve already slept a little. More generally, hot weather can cause us to change our habits. Even small changes can disrupt the sleep cycle.

Try, then, to maintain a routine, and go to bed at your usual time, after doing the things you usually do before bed.

Eat and drink sensibly

Old news, but what you put in your body affects how it performs. Drink sensibly and regularly throughout the day, and avoid having a lot of water just before bed – you’ll only need to go to the bathroom in the night. 

Avoid alcohol, obviously. Yes, it can help you fall asleep quickly, but it also promotes early and abrupt awakening, and you get poorer quality sleep in general. Limiting alcohol is advised in general during a heatwave as it dehydrates you.

And eat light – a diet based on fruits, vegetables, or fish is good when the temperature is high.

Evening shower

Are you used to taking a shower before going to bed? It’s not a bad idea during a heat wave: it lowers the body’s temperature, which helps you fall asleep.

But keep the water lukewarm. A cold shower may be tempting, but the body reacts by generating heat – which is exactly what you don’t want. 

Keep your home cool

If you have trouble sleeping in the heat, the first thing to do is to keep your room – and your home – as cool as possible.

Follow the French tricks of opening your windows early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperature is lower, then shutting both windows and shutters (or curtains if you don’t have shutters) when the sun is high. 

To keep room temperatures the same, open internal doors to allow the air to circulate.

Meanwhile, don’t spend all your time on the PC, playing on a games console or watching TV – screens give off heat that add to the heat of the room.

Fans are good

As long as you’ve been able to keep your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature. 

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Humidity works

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Still can’t sleep?

Get up and do something relaxing – like read a book, or even write.

But avoid doom-scrolling on your phone, or powering up the laptop … even if you really, really want to read The Local.

The light from personal devices is overstimulating and will, in fact, keep you awake.