France bans short-haul flights in bid to cut carbon emissions

Air travel is off the table if a destination can be reached by railway in under two-and-a-half hours

Benjamin Parker
Wednesday 24 May 2023 15:46 BST

Related: Flight-free travel: Check out France’s sleek new sleeper trains built from upcycled carriages

A ban on short-haul domestic flights has come into effect in France, in a bid to curb carbon emissions.

The new rule means flights between cities where the same journey could be made by train within two-and-a-half hours are prohibited.

The effectively rules out certain air routes between the capital, Paris, and cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, although connecting flights aren’t affected by the law.

A journey from Paris to the Mediterranean port city Marseille would still be possible via air, with the route taking around three hours by high-speed rail.

The total number of flights that have been cut falls short of the eight routes that were flagged as part of a 2021 climate law, although it’s understood that more flights could be axed if rail services improve.

The aviation industry has previously criticised the move, citing a rough period for the sector following the pandemic. Yesterday, the interim head of industry group Airlines for Europe (A4E), Laurent Donceel, urged governments to support “real and significant solutions” to airline emissions, rather than "symbolic bans".

He told the AFP news agency that “banning these trips will only have minimal effects” on CO2 output.

Coronavirus was an enormous hit to airlines across the globe. According to Flightradar24, the number of flights last year was down almost 42 per cent from 2019.

Some climate campaigners say the law doesn’t go far enough – a citizens’ climate forum set up to advise the government originally proposed to abolish flights where the equivalent train journey took under four hours.

Speaking after the rules were first mooted, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, the French minister for energy transition, said: “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.”

The new law has been introduced as French politicians debate how to reduce emissions from private jets. Green MPs have called for a total ban on small private flights, and Mr Beaune last month trailed a higher climate charge for users from next year.

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