Stop lit-up advert screens and private jets, urge French campaigners

A new decree states that advertising screens must be turned off between the hours of 01:00 and 06:00 but environmental organisations say this is not enough

An image of advertising screens in a station
Environmental organisations are calling for advertising screens to be switched off 'definitively' in France
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French environmental organisations are calling for advertising screens to be turned off “definitively” to save energy, stating that current rules on illumination hours are not sufficient.

Greenpeace, Résistance à l’agression publicitaire, Alternatiba and Plein la Vue have written an open letter to the government, arguing that while France is trying to reduce energy consumption amid soaring prices and potential shortages, it is not choosing to address the huge electricity usage of these screens.

This comes as a new decree is prepared ruling that advertising screens must be turned off between the hours of 01:00 and 06:00, as part of its ‘energy restraint plan’, through which it aims to reduce national consumption by 10% by 2024.

Advertising screens ‘waste energy’

In the letter, the organisations write: “‘We are living at the end of what could seem to be an age of abundance,’ President Emmanuel Macron declared in a speech on August 19.

Read more: Macron: ‘France is at the end of its age of abundance’

“Advertising screens are a symbol of that: they contribute to a wasting of energy and resources, are harmful to health and biodiversity, are spreading across shopping centres, stations, public transport, public spaces and shop windows, submitting citizens to an ever increasing commercial pressure.

“They encourage us to consume too much, contribute to light pollution and essentially help big business to the detriment of local business.”

The organisations added that a 2020 report from Ademe, the French agency for ecological transition, estimated that a 2m² screen uses 2,000 kWh of electricity per year, almost the same as a household, heating and hot water discounted.

“Advertising screens therefore appear to be really incongruous in a society which is increasingly characterised by an ecological and social urgency, in the context of an energy crisis and calls for restraint.”

The letter argued that there have been several campaigns pushing for such screens to be switched off over recent years, and that the move to turn them off at night is “a necessary but inadequate decision, which does not definitively liberate our public spaces.

“We are waiting for an energy restraint plan guided by the imperatives of social justice and ecological transition.”

France’s Réseau de transport d’électricité has stated in a report that 9,000 screens had been installed since 2019, the number rising by 20% each year.

The nighttime ban on illuminated signs does not apply to stations and airports which are open at night.

‘They’re air conditioning an empty room’

French workers have also been commenting on what they perceive to be unnecessary energy usages in their places of work.

One told Franceinfo: “We ended up making a joke of it: I would ask [my colleagues] if we should switch the heating on,” because the air conditioning was turned down so low.

“There are many offices and meeting rooms that are unoccupied, they’re air conditioning empty rooms.”

Another said that in the reception area of her office building: “LCD screens measuring 1.2m are constantly turned on to say hello, to show horoscopes or the weather forecast,” which she sees as a waste.

“They are making electric vehicle recharge points, we could install some in our car park, but no! We prefer to refresh the car park with big petrol engine cars.”

Her frustration was matched by a bus driver who said that many of his colleagues leave their engines running when they are waiting at bus stations, and wishes that his company would educate its employees about the effects of this.

Read also: Why drivers risk a fine in our French city if they leave engine idling

Several people lamented the fact that environmental concerns appear to be “bottom of the list” in terms of company priorities, stating that: “It is not a priority at all: ecological issues are never addressed.”

However, there is hope that the rising price of energy may push businesses to think more carefully about their consumption.

MPs table bill calling for private jet ban

MPs from the left-wing party La France Insoumise have put forward a bill calling for private jets to be banned in France from January 2023.

Read more: Calls for private jet ban in France to fight climate change

Read also: ‘PSG football club’s arguments for flying Paris-Nantes do not hold’

Thomas Portes, the Seine-Saint-Denis MP who tabled the proposal, called it an “urgent ecological measure [...] jet journeys are really polluting because they only carry one person.

“We cannot ask [people] to lower their heating in poorly insulated houses [...] to have responsible behaviours, and then exempt a minority who are burning the planet.”

If it came into law, the bill would apply to individuals and businesses chartering private jets, but not to emergency flights for medical reasons.

The bill has not yet been added to the Assemblée nationale agenda, but La France Insoumise hopes that it will add to the pressure already on the government to take further action on climate change.

Over the weekend, Ecological Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said that all industries must contributing to reduce energy usage and emissions, but that it would not be “serious” to suggest that “a fight against private jets” would resolve “the whole problem”.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune has said that “behaviours must change” with regards to private jets, and suggested that taxes could be imposed on those who use them.

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