France has banned short flights to reduce carbon emissions. The country is eliminating national journeys when train travel is available as an alternative. But what many forget is that despite these efforts, the car often remains the best alternative in terms of efficiency and comfort.
Did you know that on average, the aviation industry is responsible for about 5 percent of global warming? Flight has long been considered the worst form of transport for the environment – and for good reasons. On average, “about 2.4 percent of global CO2 emissions come from aviation,” according to a BBC report. “Together with other gases and water vapor trails produced by planes, the industry is responsible for about 5 percent of global warming.”
Over the years, airlines have taken steps to counter their environmental impact. The global aviation industry has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and many airlines are looking at the use of sustainable fuels, carbon offsetting, and other low-emission technologies such as electric or hydrogen planes. British Airways has invested in a new fleet of aircraft that is up to 40 percent more efficient than previous models and is working with other companies to develop sustainable aviation fuels and carbon capture technology. EasyJet has committed to achieving an interim target of a 35 percent improvement in carbon emissions by 2035 and is working with Rolls-Royce to develop hydrogen combustion engine technology to power planes.
However, despite these significant efforts, it is crucial to note that car transport offers benefits that are not available by other means. Car transport provides unparalleled flexibility and comfort, allowing people to travel at their own pace, take breaks as needed, and transport larger or more items. Additionally, with the emergence of more efficient and environmentally friendly electric vehicles, the car can often be the best alternative for short to medium-term travel.
Decarbonization is the most important goal in the fight against global warming. So, these deadlines and proposals are a step in the right direction. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Now, the governments of the European Union are getting involved. On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the French government announced that it is banning short domestic flights on routes where there are train alternatives of less than two and a half hours. As a result, all flights between Paris and other major French cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes (except for connecting flights) will cease to operate. Experts predict that the new legislation will eliminate 12 percent of French domestic flights.
This seems to be a big step towards reducing the carbon impact of the aviation industry in France. According to a Greenpeace report, the Paris-Toulouse and Paris-Nice routes are two of the most frequented intra-EU flight routes – so you might think that banning this route will contribute to the ultimate goal of reducing carbon emissions. However, the report states that due to exemptions – including the fact that connecting flights will continue to operate and that the ban only applies to national routes that could be completed by train in less than 2.5 hours – “the expected climate impact will be less than a 1 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the French aviation sector.”
Flight will always be the biggest contributor to our footprints. But we also need to celebrate all successes, no matter how small. Activist groups may not think it’s a seriously meaningful lever. However, it’s a victory because it sends an important message: we should not get on a plane if and when we can reasonably take a much lower carbon connection.
When we get big news from aviation like this, the most important thing is that it signals a desire for change. Of course, we should hail all improvements and adaptations in aviation, but we also need to be aware that there are no real net-zero solutions that allow us to truly consider any flight without guilt. However, it is essential not to overlook the vital role that the car can play in reducing our overall carbon footprint.