France has banned internal flights where the same journey could be made by train in under two-and-a-half hours – a move that is expected to ground 12 per cent of domestic flights.
By UK standards, the ruling -which forms part of a wider package of environmental measures unveiled last year – seems wildly ambitious but the French national assembly had faced calls to introduce even stricter rules. France’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate, which includes 150 members of the public, had called for an end flights where train journeys of under four hours existed.
The decision marks the first time a major economy has banned domestic air travel for environmental reasons. The move throws down the gauntlet to France’s European neighbours. After all, over half a million people every year flew between London and Manchester before the pandemic, a journey that takes around two hours by train.
Why are domestic flights so environmentally damaging?
The single most environmentally damaging habit of ours that remains unchecked is air travel. It’s a problem compounded by the fact that aviation is subsidised. And it’s a situation that’s getting worse.
The aviation sector accounted for 1.5 per cent of Europe’s emissions in 1990, but had grown to 4.5 per cent by 2015. Its total emissions grew 8 per cent in 2016 alone. And it’s compounded by the fact that for all the talk of efficiency gains and operational improvements, the policy measures to rein in the sector’s incredible growth in emissions are not in place.
Every flight we take is damaging to the environment, but domestic air travel is the particularly bad. A significant proportion of the pollution created by aircraft occurs during take-off and landing. The result is that the emissions produced per kilometre for each passenger on a domestic route are 70% higher than long haul flights – and six times higher than the equivalent rail journey.
Here in the UK, we hear the government and airline industry speculate about alternative jet fuels and even electric aircraft but neither measure should be relied on.
The French ban on internal flights is far from perfect and represents a watered-down version of what was proposed. However it is important because it illustrate that the climate emergency cannot be addressed without curbs on the way we travel. Unnecessary domestic flights are good first step.
Alternative to long haul flights
Long haul flights account for 750 million tons of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere each year and there is currently no practical alternative for those wanting to minimise their contribution towards climate change.
VoyageVert wants to offer travel by fast sailing ships as stepping stones between continents so that travellers do not have to fly or use fossil-fuel powered vessels. The team aims to have a trans-Atlantic passenger service in operation by 2020. Perhaps the ubiquitous fly/drive holiday will face competition from a sustainable alternative. Sail/cycle trip anyone?
The ethical choice
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.