French lawmakers in the National Assembly approve a ban on domestic flights, where train takes under 2hrs 30mins
In a recent vote, the French National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flights by any airline on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions – even while the airline industry has been hit by the pandemic. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help form climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is below 4 hours, or 6 hours. The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate. The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation. However, the French government will contribute to a €4 billion ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the airline, to keep it going during the Covid crisis. The Industry Minister said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill (sic) and despite carbon targets, companies had to be supported. McKinsey analysts forecast that air traffic may not return to 2019 levels before 2024.
France to ban some domestic flights where train available
MPs vote to suspend internal flights if the trip can be completed by train within two and a half hours instead
By Kim Willsher in Paris (Guardian)
Mon 12 Apr 2021
French MPs have voted to suspend domestic airline flights that can be made by direct train in less than two and a half hours, as part of a series of climate and environmental measures.
After a heated debate in the Assemblée Nationale at the weekend, the ban, a watered-down version of a key recommendation from President Emmanuel Macron’s citizens’ climate convention, was adopted.
It will mean the end of short internal flights from Orly airport, south of Paris, to Nantes and Bordeaux among others, though connecting flights through Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport, north of the French capital, will continue.
The climate commission set up by Macron had originally recommended the scrapping of all flights between French destinations where an alternative direct train journey of less than four hours existed.
This was reduced to two and a half hours after strong objections from certain regions and from Air France-KLM, which, like other airlines, has been badly hit by local and international Covid-19 restrictions on travel.
A year ago, the French government agreed a €7bn loan for AF-KLM on the condition that certain internal flights were dropped, but the decree will also stop low-cost airlines from operating the banned domestic routes.
The chief executive of Air France-KLM, Benjamin Smith, has said the airline is committed to reducing the number of its French domestic routes by 40% by the end of this year.
The transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told MPs: “We have chosen two and a half hours because four hours risks isolating landlocked territories including the greater Massif Central, which would be iniquitous.”
The measure, part of a climate and resilience bill, was passed despite cross-party opposition. The Socialist MP Joël Aviragnet said the measure would have a “disproportionate human cost” and warned of job losses in the airline sector. Other MPs, including from the Green party, complained that watering down the climate convention’s recommendation had made the measure meaningless.
Mathilde Panot, of the hard left La France Insoumise, said the measure had been “emptied”, while her colleague Danièle Obono said retaining the four-hour threshold would have made it possible to halt routes that “emit the most greenhouse gases”.
The French consumer association UFC-Que Choisir had called on MPs to retain the four-hour recommendation and give the new law “some substance … while also putting in place safeguards that [French national rail] SNCF will not seize the opportunity to artificially inflate its prices or degrade the quality of rail service.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing environmental and social crises. It must lead us to rethink our health policies in order to face the challenge of future health crises of infectious origin.”
It added that banning domestic flights if a direct train alternative of fewer than four hours existed it would have a “real impact” on reducing CO2 emissions and would not adversely affect travel times or prices.
“On average, the plane emits 77 times more CO2 per passenger than the train on these routes, even though the train is cheaper and the time lost is limited to 40 minutes,” it said. “Our study shows that … the government’s choice actually aims to empty the measure of its substance.”
Details of the exact routes that will be halted will be published in the official decree. Flights from Paris to Nice, which takes about six hours by train, and Toulouse, four hours by train, will continue.
France’s new law will be watched closely by other countries. Austria’s coalition conservative-green government introduced a €30 tax on airline tickets for flights of less than 217 miles (350km) last June and a ban on domestic flights that could be travelled in less than three hours by train.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has been trying since June 2013 to ban short domestic flights. In 2019, Dutch MPs voted to ban flights between Schiphol airport in Amsterdam and Zaventem airport in Brussels, a distance of 93 miles. However, the ban was seen as breaking European commission free-movement regulations and was not implemented.
French lawmakers approve a ban on short domestic flights
By Reuters Staff
PARIS (Reuters) – French lawmakers voted late on Saturday to abolish domestic flights on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions even as the air travel industry reels from the global pandemic. [The global airline industry is how Covid spread so fast around the world. AW comment].
The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation.
The vote came days after the state said it would contribute to a 4 billion euro ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the flag-carrier, to shore up its finances after over a year of COVID-19 travel curbs.
Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher dismissed criticism from the aviation industry that a pandemic recovery was not the time to ban some domestic flights, and said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill.
“We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions,” she told Europe 1 radio. “Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside.”
Air traffic may not return to pre-crisis levels before 2024, McKinsey analysts forecast.
Some environmental campaigners have said the bill does not go far enough. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help shape climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is less than 4 hours.
Saturday night’s vote in the National Assembly was the first. The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate.
($1 = 0.8406 euros)
Greenpeace France “greenwash” an AirFrance plane at Charles de Gaulle airport
Greenpeace France activists got onto the tarmac at Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport to denounce the government’s greenwashing of aviation. They painted the side of an AirFrance plane green – greenwashing it. They say we need to reduce air travel, in order to be compatible the Paris Agreement targets. This comes a few days before the start of parliamentary debates on the “Climate and Resilience” bill. Greenpeace says airport expansion must be stopped – several French airports have such plans at present. They say now only should flights be replaced by rail journeys if the train time is under 2hours 30 minutes, but when the trip is under 6 hours. A train from London to Edinburgh takes about 4 hrs 50 mins. Greenpeace is not against novel technologies, but they say these will not be enough to make a sufficient difference, in the necessary timescale. The proposed technical solutions are a risk, as they delay real action. They explain why biofuels, hydrogen planes, or electric planes are not going to cut aviation emissions any time soon, if ever. Synthetic fuels made from surplus renewably generated electricity offer a small potential, but they will be expensive and only produced in small amounts. So air travel needs to be regulated and reduced.
France to ban commercial flights on shortest domestic routes
Air France’s bailout ‘climate conditions’ and possible future aviation taxes
The state bail out of Air France by the French government earlier in the year got a lot of publicity. Some of the conditions looked as if they could be effective in cutting emissions. Now the restrictions on air travel look set to continue for many more months, airline finances and state help need to be reassessed. The pandemic has been a unique opportunity to shrink the sector, and insist that it takes effective action in future to significantly cut its carbon emissions. The NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) have assessed the potential effectiveness of the conditions, and are not impressed. They say the Air France conditions included improving fuel efficiency (which it will do anyway, to save money); also removing the shortest flights (which will have minimal impact on the airline’s overall emissions). And use of low carbon novel fuels, but if first generation biofuels were used, this would increase – not cut – CO2 emissions. Last T&E says the climate conditions attached to the bailout are not legally binding, leaving it to the good will of Air France. Each condition should be made mandatory, with clear financial penalties for failure to comply. The French government has now proposed reasonably high taxes on flights, of €30 for economy short haul, and €60 economy long haul (>2,000km) but this has to be approved by the political process.