By Naveen Athrappully
France is banning short-haul domestic flights when there is a regular and frequent train option that takes less than two and a half hours, after a 2021 climate law, No 2021-1104, received permission from the European Commission (EC).
Article 145.I of the law prohibits passenger flights “on all air routes within French territory for which there are several direct rail connections per day of less than two and a half hours,” according to the European Union decision report (pdf). Accordingly, the three routes between Paris-Orly and Bordeaux, Nantes, and Lyon will no longer be serviced by passenger flights.
The other flight routes proposed by French lawmakers—between Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport station and Bordeaux and Nantes; Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Rennes and Lyon; and Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Lyon-Marseille—are allowed to continue because of longer and unsuitable train timings.
According to the EC, “Future improvements in the rail services” will enable “these air routes to be banned.”
“This is a major step forward, and I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area,” Clément Beaune, France’s transport minister, said in a statement to The Telegraph.
Green Party politicians welcomed the flight ban. “The French ban on short-haul flights where quick train connections exist is a baby step, but it’s one in the right direction,” said Thomas Gelin, Greenpeace’s EU climate campaigner, to the outlet.
However, some Green Party politicians want to extend the ban to cover four-hour train journeys, while other European lawmakers are hoping to expand the coverage to the whole continent with upcoming new railway lines like the European Uunion’s TEN-T project.
Opposition to Climate Change Rule, Any Real Impacts?
Detractors of the new rule, like the Net Zero Watch, commented in a tweet, “Just another freedom Net Zero will be taking away. #CostOfNetZero,” which was seconded by professor Jordan Peterson saying, “Expect MUCH more of this….”
When French lawmakers first proposed the rule in 2021, the Union of French Airports as well as the European branch of the Airports Council International opposed the move, leading to the European Commission to get involved in the issue and adjudicating the matter.
The EC noted that the new rule will not have much of an impact on the environment because air traffic on the routes had considerably declined since the pandemic shutdowns.
“Banning those routes will therefore not lead to an actual reduction in emissions. However, unquantifiable environmental benefits may nonetheless be generated since air carriers potentially interested in operating these routes will be prevented from doing so,” said the commission in the report.
France is the first European country to attempt a short-haul flight ban citing climate change.
Around 60 percent of high-speed and intercity trains were canceled in France during a three-day strike recently, which led to major rail transport disruption in the country. Only four out of 10 normal services were running as usual on the high-speed TGV, Ouigo, and Intercité lines.