In a bid to reduce carbon emissions, France’s ban on domestic flights for short routes of less than 2.5 hours that can be covered by train has formally taken effect.

The ruling, which was already in practice having been included in a 2021 climate law, will mostly impact trips between Paris and regional airports including Bordeaux, Nantes and Lyon. Some airlines had however contested it and asked the European Commission to investigate.

However the ban was officially signed into law in France on Tuesday 23 May with Clement Beaune, France’s Transport Minister heralding the decree saying: “This is an essential step and a strong symbol in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

For the ban to apply, the law does specify that train services on the respective routes must be able to absorb the increase in passenger numbers by offering frequent, timely and well connected services. Those travelling should be able to make a return trip journey on the same day, having spent at least eight hours at their destination.

Critics have expressed concern that the ban pays lip service to climate concerns without really doing anything about them. According to cleaner transport campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) “The French flight ban is a good start, but will have very little impact on reducing emissions.”

T&E estimates that the three routes affected by the ban represent only 0.3% of the emissions produced by flights taking off from mainland France and 3% of the country’s domestic flight emissions (counting only mainland domestic flights). It concludes that governments are ignoring the biggest source of aviation emissions coming from long-haul flights.

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