New French policy mandates more sustainable travel

French travel is about to get a green upgrade as the country’s parliament has voted to ban any domestic flights in which the same destination can be reached by train in less than two and a half hours. 

After a heated debate in the Assemblée Nationale, the new policy means that greener train transportation will be the only travel option for nearby domestic destinations. Train transportation emits, on average, 77 times less CO2 than flights, so this change will drastically cut transportation emissions. 

The official policy follows a previous agreement between Air France-KLM, the country’s predominant airline, and the government, in which France committed to offering the airline a €7 billion loan on the condition that certain domestic flights were dropped. In response to this agreement and the new policy, the airline has announced it will cut domestic routes by 40 percent by the end of 2021. 

Although the decision is an influential environmental protection measure, many argue it does not go far enough. The initial legislation, introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s citizens’ climate convention, had recommended a ban on all flights in which the destination could be reached by a four-hour train ride. The time was cut down due to concerns about isolating rural landlocked destinations and job loss in the airline industry.

This new environmental travel regulation is made possible by the country’s extensive train network infrastructure. Other countries with strong public transportation systems have been considering similar policies. The Netherlands is exploring a short-distance flight ban and Austria is looking to add a similar law to their existing €30 tax on airline tickets for flights of less than 217 miles. We will continue to follow these stories closely and hope France’s policy encourages other countries to follow suit. 

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