France bans shorter domestic flights to reduce emissions

SSome of France’s domestic flights will cease operations this month due to the ban on short-haul routes where travelers could alternatively catch a train in less than 2.5 hours.

The ban aims to reduce carbon emissions caused by aircraft in France and is part of the country’s overall effort to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The new policy marks the first time that a country enacts a law prohibiting flights for environmental reasons.

The new law (which was passed in 2021) affects five routes:

  • Flights between Paris Orly and Bordeaux
  • Flights between Paris Orly and Lyon
  • Flights between Paris Orly and Nantes
  • Flights between Paris Orly and Rennes
  • Flights between Lyon and Marseille

There are, however, a few exceptions. Flights departing from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport are not affected, according to the information. And flights from smaller French airports that connect to an international flight, such as Lyon to London with a stopover in Paris, are not prohibited.

It’s hard to say how much this will affect France’s carbon emissions, but according to a report published in the Guardian“Because much of the pollution on any given flight takes place during the take-off and landing cycles, the emissions produced per kilometer for each passenger on an inner road are 70% higher than long-haul flights – and six times higher than if the same trip were made by rail.”

As part of the French government’s 2020 pandemic bailout plan, Air France has received more than $7 billion on the condition that the airline do more to combat the negative effects of its operations on the environment – ban shorter flights were part of the conditions. (Air France operated the bulk of flights on all five routes.) The measure was signed into law the following year, in part because the government did not want other carriers to step in and claim these routes, undermining Air France’s efforts to be more sustainable.

Other European countries have adopted similar measures in recent years, although none outright ban short-haul flights. Austria replaced an air route between Vienna and Salzburg with increased rail service in 2020.

And the German Aviation Association and Deutsche Bahn (the country’s main railway company) signed an agreement in 2021 offer more high-speed rail connections, making rail rather than air an easier choice for travellers. The two entities said the increase in rail service would give around 20% of air travelers (or about 4.3 million people a year) the option of traveling by train instead, which could reduce by a sixth carbon dioxide emissions generated by domestic air travel.

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