The measure will supposedly help avert climate change, but critics say it will have little impact
A French ban on short-haul domestic flights has come into force after it was approved by the European Commission. Private jets will not be affected by the carbon-cutting plan.
Under a government decree published on Tuesday, domestic flights that are possible in less than two and a half hours by train have been forbidden.
The change will scrap dozens of daily flights between Paris and regional hubs like Nantes, Lyon, or Bordeaux, and result in cleaner, but longer, journeys for passengers. For a commuter traveling from Paris to Bordeaux, for example, the trip will now take two and a half hours by train, up from 75 minutes by plane.
The ban will only affect these three routes initially, as trains between other locations were deemed insufficiently frequent.
The ban was first introduced in France’s 2021 Climate Law, after it was proposed by a citizen’s assembly tasked with coming up with ways of reducing carbon emissions. It was bitterly contested by airlines and by the Union of French Airports, who argued that it infringes on EU freedom of movement rights.
The European Commission sided with the French government, ruling on Friday that member states may, “where there are serious environmental problems… limit or refuse the exercise of traffic rights.”
“[This] is a major step forward in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Transport Minister Clement Beaune said in a press release. “I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area.”
The Union of French Airports downplayed the environmental benefit of the ban, stating earlier this year that it would eliminate only 0.23% of France’s air transport emissions. Climate activists cited a similar figure to argue that the ban does not go far enough, while other critics argued that travelers will be just as likely to take their cars instead of the train, resulting in a net increase in carbon emissions.
The ban does not affect private flights, which account for dramatically more carbon per passenger than commercial routes. Beaune said last month that the government would introduce a climate surcharge for private fliers from next year, but Green politicians have called for an outright ban.
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