After banning short-haul flights in April in a bid to encourage green travelling, the French government, which is set to hold the EU presidency from January to June 2022, revealed it would not push for the ban to be adopted by the remaining EU member countries.
The comments were made by the French Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, who pointed out that France has a specific rail network with numerous high-speed trains, making the trips convenient for travellers, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
“It’s possible that we have the discussion [at an EU level], but so far we have a national approach, given the national railway network,” Djebbari said.
The comments Minister Djebbari added are important as the French government will hold the rotating EU presidency, giving it the right to lobby and potentially discuss the transport policies in the 27-nation-bloc for the first half of 2022.
In other words, the French law bans domestic flights that last less than two and a half hours, and that can be replaced by train alternatives. The law applies only to domestic destinations, for example, from Paris to Lyon, excluding connecting flights. According to environmental groups, this measure makes the overall impact on emissions negligible.
Currently, France has 2,800 kilometres of high-speed trains that link destinations like London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt, but doesn’t restrict flights with them despite the fact that those destinations are easily accessible by train. Last month, Greenpeace called on European governments to drop short flights that have a six-hour rail alternative.
In the statement, the global environmentalist campaign pointed out that a simple way how Europeans could lower the pollution is by using the rail alternative for intra-European destinations, which is also easier and economical for people.
Commercial aviation is responsible for 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions, with most of the pollution caused by long-haul flights. Djebbari, a former pilot, warned that while these measures are needed to address the industry’s impact on climate change, necessary initiatives are required to tackle new taxes and levies.
“If the middle class realize in five years that they are not able to travel anymore, we’re going to have a European political problem. So, we need to be careful with what they are doing,” he said.
Connecting Europe Express, which is an EU-joint rail travelling alternative that passes by all 26 member states’ capitals, has started its journey from Lisbon, Portugal, on September 2 and passed 33 border crossings and more than 20,000 kilometres. The train ended its journey on October 7 with Paris, the French capital, after 36 days and 120 stops across the 26-nation-bloc. The train was established for the occasion of the European Year of Rail 2021, in a bid to raise awareness of the benefits of rail transport and green travelling.