France wants to ban short flights for the environment, but ‘effect is minimal’

The French Parliament has approved a bill which bans domestic flights to destinations that can be reached within 2.5 hours by train. The law should contribute to a reduction in CO2 emissions, but the most polluting flights remain out of control. Therefore, critics question the effectiveness of the law.

France wants to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% in the year 2030 compared with 1990, and under the new law flights from Paris to Bordeaux and Lyon are a thing of the past.


Two years ago, President Macron launched the Citoyenne pour le Climat Convention, a group of 150 randomly appointed French people who had to come up with proposals on how to achieve climate targets. They suggested flights to destinations that can be reached by high-speed trains in less than four hours. That proposal did not make it; the four hours were then reduced to 2.5 hours.

According to Secretary of State for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, this was done because otherwise certain areas, such as the Massif Central, would become isolated. โ€œKeeping the four-hour limit would be contrary to equality between the territories,โ€ said Djebbari.

Airline Air France-KLM was also against the four-hour limit. Air France had to accept the reduced 2.5 hour variant, in exchange for 7 billion euros of state aid last year. None of this promise has yet come to pass (there can still be flown from Paris to Lyon, for example), but by making a law out of it, competitors of Air France-KLM must comply with it.

According to critics, the reduction to 2.5 hours has eroded the scheme. For example, Greenpeace came up with a report calling the measure โ€œlargely inadequateโ€, because most emissions flights remain out of control. According to Greenpeace, the longer route Paris-Toulouse accounts for 213 kilotons of CO2 emissions.

The left-wing party La France Insoumise also rejected the adjustment. โ€œIf we had maintained the four-hour limit, we would have reduced emissions by 33%, which would have helped France achieve its climate ambitions and meet its international commitments,โ€ says MP Mathilde Pinot.

In addition, domestic flights in the cancelled routes are permitted as a connection to an international flight. This means that the flights will continue to exist, but will only be sold as a connection.


The bill must now be examined by the Senate first. After that, Parliament votes on it for a third and last time. It is expected that the law will be passed.


that is the case, France is not the first country to ban short flights. Last year, the conservative-green Austrian government scrapped flights for distances that can be reached by rail within three hours.