France has voted to ban domestic airline flights on routes that could be replaced with an existing train journey of less than two-and-a-half hours, as part of a slew of measures to fight climate change.
What is Happening?
- The bill would end regional flights between Paris’ Orly airport and cities like Nantes and Bordeaux, however impact connecting flights through Paris’s Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport would not be affected.
- While the bill passed through the country’s National Assembly on the weekend, it now has to go through the French Senate, then return to the lower house for a final vote.
Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Europe 1 radio, “We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions.”
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- The bill is part of a legislative package which aims to reduce France’s emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. A climate commission set up by president Emmanuel Macron had originally recommended a ban of all flights between destinations in France where an alternative direct train journey of less than four hours existed. However, this was reduced to two-and-a-half hours after strong objections from certain regions and from Air France- KLM.
- However, some environmental and consumer groups objected to the changes. The organisation UFC-Que Choisir compared plane routes with equivalent train journeys of under four hours and found that the plane trips emitted an average of 77 times more carbon dioxide per passenger than the train journeys. At the same time, the train alternatives were cheaper and only as much as 40 minutes longer.
- The new measure has also opened the French government to charges of hypocrisy. Last year, it agreed a loan of seven billion euros for AF-KLM on the condition that certain internal flights were dropped. Then, days before the measure passed, it more than doubled its stake in the airline.
- The measure follows efforts from other countries to curb air travel to curb climate change. Last year, Austria introduced a €30 tax on airline tickets for flights of less than 350km and a ban on domestic flights that could be travelled in less than three hours by train. Meanwhile, Austrian Airlines replaced its Vienna-Salzburg flight with additional train service after it received government money dependent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.