France prohibits short-haul flights to reduce carbon emissions
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France prohibits short-haul flights to reduce carbon emissions. By enacting legislation that forbids domestic short-haul flights when rail options are easily accessible, France has made a significant advancement in its fight against carbon emissions.

The ordinance, which took effect after two years of legislative approval, focuses primarily on roads where the same trip can be made by rail in two and a half hours. As a result, there are now very few alternatives for flying between Paris and several destinations, including Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux. The prohibition, however, continues to not apply to connected flights.

The action has been hailed as a step in the direction of sustainability, but others claim that it may only have a symbolic rather than real influence. The interim leader of Airlines for Europe (A4E), Laurent Donceel, voiced doubt about the ban’s ability to lower CO2 emissions. He asserted that “banning these trips will only have minimal effects” and recommended that governments prioritise implementing practical and effective solutions to the problem.

The COVID-19 epidemic has had a substantial negative influence on the aviation sector, with a considerable drop in flights around the globe. A well-known flight tracking website, Flightradar24, claimed that there were over 42% fewer flights in 2020 than there were in 2019.

Despite the difficulties faced by airlines, President Emmanuel Macron’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate in France, comprised of 150 members of the public, proposed a more stringent approach by advocating the elimination of flights where trains with travel times under four hours were available. However, the intended time restriction was shortened to two and a half hours in response to complaints from some areas and Air France-KLM.

Source: BEIS/Defra Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors 2019
Source: BEIS/Defra Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors 2019 

The stark difference in carbon emissions between railways and aeroplanes drives the decision to prohibit short-haul aircraft. UFC-Que Choisir, a French consumer advocacy group, emphasised that, on average, airlines produce 77 times more CO2 per passenger than trains on equivalent trips.

The train alternative also has a smaller time difference of only 40 minutes, making it more economical and ecologically friendly. The consumer organisation also demanded protections to prevent the French national railway, SNCF, from taking advantage of the circumstance by raising rates or lowering the calibre of rail services.

In conclusion, France’s decision to impose a ban on domestic short-haul flights with feasible rail alternatives is an important step towards lowering carbon emissions. Its real impact on CO2 reduction and the aviation sector, however, is still up for discussion.

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