The government of France signed into law a new rule banning short-haul domestic flights on routes that can be serviced by rail in less than 2.5 hours, with the rules taking effect immediately.

The new rule was initially announced as part of France’s Climate and Resilience Law, introduced in 2021, as part of a series of measures aimed at supporting the country’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030, including key sectors such as housing, retail and transport, as well as rules requiring environmental labeling for goods and services and bans on fossil fuel advertising. France has also set a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

According to France Transport Minister Clément Beaune, “strongly stepping up our action in terms of decarbonizing transport” will be a necessary focus area for achieving carbon neutrality, with the sector accounting for 30% of emissions.

Beaune added:

“As we fight relentlessly to decarbonize our lifestyles, how can we justify the use of the plane between the big cities which benefit from regular, fast and efficient connections by train?”

While the government described the new rules as a “world first,” the measure is mostly symbolic, effectively ruling out 3 routes between four cities, including Nantes, Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris-Orly, which account for a small proportion of total domestic flights in the country. The initial proposal for the ban had targeted flights with alternative train journeys of under 4 hours, although the law introduced shortened the length to 2.5 hour routes following objections from industry groups.

The European Commission approved the proposed law in December 2022, but added requirements for the rail alternatives to meet the needs of passengers who would otherwise fly, including frequency and capacity. The EU’s requirements effectively cut the banned routes from eight to three, unless rail service improves on the remaining routes.

Interdire les lignes aériennes en cas d’alternative de moins de 2h30 en train.

Je m’y suis engagé.

Nous sommes les premiers à le faire.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 23, 2023

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