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An Air France A320 in Munich (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

French Lawmakers Ban Short Domestic Flights

French lawmakers from the lower chamber of Parliament voted on Saturday, April 10 to ban domestic flight operations in France where a train would complete the trip in two-and-a-half hours or less, with a goal of diverting short-haul domestic air traveling to more energy-efficient train services.

While climate policies remain to be controversial, the new measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, all at a time when the air travel industry reels from the global pandemic.

“We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions. Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside,” said French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher.

“The climate bill aims to eliminate links between Paris (Orly) and Nantes, Lyon or Bordeaux, but provides exceptions for connecting journeys. The Citizens’ Climate Convention had called for the elimination of domestic flights in case of alternatives of less than 4 hours by train, not 2:30,” According to La Voix du Nord.

The industry minister however, dismissed criticism from the aviation industry that a pandemic recovery was not the time to ban some domestic flights, and said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill, reports Reuters.

Even as the new measures sound drastic, it will only potentially impact five domestic routes out the existing 108-route-strong domestic network. These routes include; Paris (Orly) to Bordeaux; Paris (Orly) to Lyon; Paris (Orly) to Nantes; Paris (Orly) to Rennes and Lyon to Marseille.

Flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle aren’t impacted by the measure.

France has in the past been considering all sorts of measures to reduce emissions from aviation. In September 2020, the French Republic proposed some carbon emissions control measures that include eliminating all domestic flights by 2025 when there’s a low-carbon alternative in less than four hours, banning the construction of new airports and the expansion of existing airports, banning advertising planes and adding additional taxes on recreational aviation fuel.

Air travel is a highly controversial topic in climate debates, yet aviation overall accounts for only 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

This may arguably be contributed by how aviation emissions are attributed to countries. CO2 emissions from domestic flights are counted in a country’s emission accounts, while International flights are not – instead they are counted as their own category: ‘bunker fuels.’ The fact that they don’t count towards the emissions of any country means there are few incentives for countries to reduce them.

Pre-pandemic, airlines were starting to take environmentalism more seriously, and we’ve seen airlines around the world pledge to carbon offset their flying. Recently, for example, FedEx Airlines pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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