The National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, adopted several measures to limit the emissions of aviation as part of the bill called “Climate and Resilience”.
Among those measures, the lawmakers approved the ban of certain domestic routes, when there are alternatives by the train in less than 2 hours and a half. Thus, flights between Paris and Nantes, Lyon, or Bordeaux should disappear, with an exception for connecting journeys from and to the Paris-CDG hub for international flights. The bill also provides for gradual carbon offsetting of domestic flights.
Initially set at 4 hours, the threshold was eventually reduced to avoid an unfair situation for more isolated territories such as the Massif Central area, as explained by France’s Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. The routes affected by the ban should eventually be decided by decree.
The adoption of the bill sets in stone the conditions that were imposed on Air France to receive a €7 billion state loan in 2020. The national carrier was asked to “drastically” reduce its domestic network if it was to obtain the aid. With the bill ratified, competitors will not be able to take over the routes.
But the two-and-a-half-hour limit is seen as insufficient by defenders of the bill, as the routes that emit the most greenhouse gases are allegedly outside the threshold (namely Paris-Nice, Paris-Toulouse, or Paris-Marseille). Opponents, mainly representing areas economically tied to the aeronautical industry such as Toulouse, criticized the “disproportionate human cost” of the measure in a sector that was already “going very badly.”
Another article that was adopted forbids the creation or extension of airports from 2022 “if they result in a net increase, after compensation, in greenhouse gas emissions.” While the measure had not yet been adopted, the French government canceled the project to build a new terminal, T4, for Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (CDG) citing environmental concerns in February 2021. The government has asked Aéroports de Paris, Charles de Gaulle operator, to present a new project “more consistent with its objectives of combating climate change and protecting the environment.”
The second part of the bill will be discussed and formally voted on May 4, 2021. It will then have to be approved by the French Senate.