French lawmakers have voted to abolish domestic flights on routes covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours. The measure is part of a broader climate bill to cut France’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, from 1990 levels.
The announcement, made by the National Assembly, will need to pass two more rounds of voting before it is formally approved and comes days after the state said it would contribute to a €4 billion (US$4.76 billion) recapitalization of Air France — more than doubling its stake in the national airline.
French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has doubled down on the government’s stance following criticism from the aviation industry that a pandemic recovery was not the time to ban some domestic flights.
“We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change, we must reduce emissions,” Pannier-Runacher told Europe 1 radio. “Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside.”
Climate activists have also accused President Emmanuel Macron of backtracking on earlier promises to include all domestic flights under four hours in the draft legislation.
According to French environmental group Réseau Action Climat, the change in law will only impact five of the 108 pre-coronavirus domestic routes in France, or 4.6 percent of trips.
It also exempts the country’s busiest airport, Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG), due to its position as a key transfer point for connecting flights.
The French government has previously considered other initiatives to curb air travel, including limiting the construction of new airports and adding an eco-tax, which could potentially add €400 one way for long-haul business-class flights.
Bikes for cars
French lawmakers have also approved a measure to offer commuters a €2,500 grant to trade-in aging high emission cars for electric bicycles as part of a scrappage scheme.
If adopted, the scheme will be world-first, according to the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB).
“For the first time, it is recognized that the solution is not to make cars greener, but simply to reduce their number,” said Olivier Schneider, President of the FUB.