France bans domestic short-haul flights to cut carbon emissions
In an effort to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% in 2030, France has formally banned domestic flights on short routes that can be covered by trains in less than two-and-a-half hours.
Although the measure was a part of the 2021 climate law and already applied in practice, some airlines had called on the European Commission to probe how legal the new rule was.
The change will mostly affect flights between the capital – Paris – and regional hubs such as Nantes, Bordeaux, and Lyon, with connecting flights operating as usual.
While Paris and Lyon are roughly 400 km apart and flights take around 1 hour and 10 minutes to bridge the gap, a high-speed train needs about 1 hour and 57 minutes.
But critics have called the change “symbolic bans”. According to Laurent Donceel, interim head of industry group Airlines for Europe (A4E), banning such air trips will only have minimal effects on emissions, the AFP news agency reported. He called on governments to instead back “real and significant solutions” to the problem.
The French government had faced calls to impose even stricter measures. The Citizens’ Convention on Climate, which was created in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against the climate emergency, had proposed ruling out flights on routes where train journeys of under four hours existed.
But, owing to opposition from certain regions and the airline Air France-KLM, it was later reduced to two-and-a-half hours.
French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir had earlier urged lawmakers to maintain the four-hour limit. Even though train journeys are cheaper and the time lost on these routes is limited to 40 minutes, the plane – on average – emits 77 times more CO2 per passenger than the train, it said.
It also highlighted the need for safeguards that SNCF – France’s national state-owned railway company – will not take advantage of the situation to artificially inflate its prices or degrade the quality of services.