Patio heaters, which have mushroomed in pub gardens since the smoking ban was introduced last year, were at the centre of a battle between British landlords and the EU last night as Euro MPs were expected to vote for energy-saving proposals seeking their abolition.
New proposals from Brussels address various appliances such as air-conditioning units and television "decoder" boxes, as well as the stand-by mode on electrical appliances. But they specifically mention patio heaters, which have also been used domestically for around a decade. Industry figures have claimed that the pub trade now faces losses of up to £250m.
According to the Publican Market Report 2007, the pub trade invested up to £86.5m on outdoor heaters in the past year as it learnt of the impending government ban on smoking in public places. Now pubs are worried they will not only have wasted the money they spent on the new heaters, but customers who still smoke will be tempted to stay at home, where recent figures show most Britons are now consuming alcohol.
The Energy Saving Trust has predicted that the number of heaters in use is set to rise this year from 1.2 million to 2.6 million. The energy-efficiency report being debated in Brussels has been written by Fiona Hall, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the North-east.
Significantly, the report is an "own initiative" set of recommendations, meaning it is not legally enforceable. But it means the Commission – the "executive" of the EU – is likely to come under renewed pressure to ban the heaters.
Ms Hall said of the report, which also calls for reforms to the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, due to be revised in 2008: "We talk of the need to combat climate change with renewables, but we should never lose sight of the fact that energy efficiency is the fastest and cheapest way to cut CO2 emissions. With 40 per cent of the energy we consume being used in buildings, it is vital that the measures I have recommended are put in place as soon as possible."
Tony Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth, said: "It is madness that we should be pumping out carbon dioxide by heating the open air. The UK Government... must be prepared to back EU proposals to improve energy efficiency, which include banning these carbon-belching monstrosities."
The retail firm B&Q recently announced it would no longer sell the heaters.
Government figures show that domestic patio heaters produce a total of 22,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is 0.002 per cent of the total UK carbon dioxide emissions, while televisions produce 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 each year.
Dr Eric Johnson, national expert reviewer for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: "The overall impact of outdoor heaters on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions is very minimal... Once comparisons start with well-known offenders such as aeroplanes, outdoor heaters dwarf in comparison. In actual fact, plasma TVs produce far more CO2 than patio heaters when you compare normal usage patterns for each appliance."