France in the Dark on Lighting Legislation?

france in the dark

Potential France Lighting Legislation: Beginning July of 2013, the French Environment Ministry is requiring all shops and offices to turn off their lights after 1 AM or 1-hour after closing with exceptions being made for tourist attractions, cultural areas, and Christmas. The move is intended to cut carbon emissions by 250,000 tons a year and save the equivalent of the annual consumption of 750,000 households.

While the law helps address a larger global concern of reducing greenhouse gases, such a drastic move can have negative impacts on small businesses and developing neighborhoods. For neighborhoods and business’ to thrive, there must be people occupying the streets at nearly all hours. Additionally, good lighting offers reassurances of safety to people who wish to use the sidewalks at night. Without something to attract their attention, someone taking a casual walk could overlook the new shop or restaurant around the corner. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urban activist Jane Jacobs discusses the importance of having ‘eyes on the street’. Jacobs’ concepts are still implemented today and helped influence the New Urbanism movement. Books such as Suburban Nation also reflect on neighborhood development at the town and suburban level.

Rather than taking such a drastic move across an entire nation, national governments should require local municipalities to implement laws that cater to their areas. Local governments should work with local businesses and neighborhood organizations to develop standards for lighting after hours. Without helping these businesses to highlight what they sell after hours, there could be lost revenue and neighborhood property values could decrease. If this happens, the City of Light could be a thing of the past.

By Emad Hasan