The plane is once again in the sights of organizations fighting against global warming this weekend, with actions planned by Greenpeace in 17 places in France. In the wake of a battle waged during the first confinement and aimed at not relaunching “as before” the air sector, the most polluting mode of travel in terms of the number of passengers transported, the organization claims to eliminate domestic flights that can be done by train, without change and in less than six hours.
In a report published this weekend, she dissects the climate need to do so, as well as the alternatives and social support to be developed to make the measure acceptable. Brief overview of what she says.
What France’s domestic flights weigh
At the French level, air traffic has almost doubled over the past twenty years, notes Greenpeace. We went from nearly 87 million passengers carried in 1998, against 172 million in 2018. The majority take international flights, while domestic flights have stabilized. CO2 emissions increased by 17% between 2010 and 2019. If, logically, long-haul flights are the main culprits, “This cannot be a pretext for not regulating domestic flights for which less polluting alternatives exist or are possible”, underlines Greenpeace.
The organization scrutinizes the twelve Paris Province connections and the three Province Province connections that transported the most passengers by plane in 2019, even though there is an alternative by train, without change and in less than six hours. Together, these flights would have emitted 1,059 kilotons of CO2 into the atmosphere. It is precisely these that Greenpeace proposes to remove.
Reduced to the number of passengers, CO2 equivalent emissions are, for example, 39 times greater when traveling from Paris to Nice by plane than when traveling by train, the NGO calculated. They are 45 times more important for a Paris Toulouse, or even 84 times more important for a Paris Marseille.
How to do without short flights?
The question is as important as its answer is elementary: by developing alternatives. Starting with rail, whose modernization, wherever it takes place, proves that it offers a real solution.
The air connections whose passenger volume has decreased the most over the past five years concern precisely the journeys for which the rail link has been modernized, notes the NGO. For example, the Paris-Bordeaux route (- 21% of air passengers) benefited from the entry into service, in 2017, of a new high-speed line which increased the train journey from 3 hours 15 minutes to 2:04 a.m.
36% of all those questioned declared having flown in the past 12 months, compared to 64% of executives.
This criterion is one of the most essential to guarantee the social acceptability of the reduction in the number of domestic flights, notes Greenpeace, which suggests, however, that the tolerance of users’ travel time may be higher than assumed. “In a survey carried out by the BVA institute for Greenpeace in June 2020, 58% of those questioned declared themselves in favor of the elimination of domestic airlines when there are alternatives by train within six hours. The risk of isolation of the territories affected by such a removal should not be neglected “, she finally admits. “We have to fight with determination so that the modal shift linked to the elimination of these domestic flights, in particular to the train, is well anticipated, so that the investments in the revival of the railway are real and up to the challenges, so that the railway offer is modernized and improved in quantity and quality and made accessible to all, so that a complete network of new night trains is developed to complete the daytime offer and facilitate the air / train modal shift, etc. “, she lists.
The social issue is the other determining point. “It is essential to anticipate, organize and finance the transition of workers in the sector impacted by its necessary transformation, by involving them in discussions and decisions”, insists the environmental organization.
The limits of government promises
The government is not taking sufficient action either in the face of social issues or in the face of climate imperatives, deplores Greenpeace. In the spring of 2020, he admittedly announced the future ban on domestic flights. But it would only concern those offering an alternative by train in less than 2 hours 30 minutes, and would exclude connecting flights to international flights (according to modalities that remain to be specified). “According to an analysis by the Climate Action Network published in May 2020, only five lines out of the hundred or so existing internal connections are potentially affected. “ All “Would present a very limited climate benefit”, not allowing to reduce “CO2 emissions from metropolitan flights by 6.6%, and emissions from all flights departing from France by 0.5%. “
Conversely, Greenpeace still insists, the climate benefit would be clearly enhanced with the elimination of lines less than five hours by train – a 60.6% reduction in CO2 emissions from metropolitan flights and 4.5% in emissions from all flights departing from France -, and even more with the elimination of lines less than six hours away by train – 83.5% reduction in CO2 emissions from metropolitan flights and 6.2% in emissions of all flights departing from France.
Regarding rail, nothing in what the government is proposing seems sufficient. “An additional financial effort of three billion euros per year in rail is necessary over the next ten years to finally give full place to train and rail freight in France”, believes Greenpeace. “It is also essential to rebalance the tax system in favor of the modes of transport that emit the least greenhouse gases. “
Nor is the situation of airline employees fully taken care of. “While the aeronautics sector benefits from massive support from the State during this Covid crisis, how is it that the social protection of employees affected by the health crisis and by the necessary transformation of the sector in the long term not be at the heart of the support given to these large “strategic” companies? “, questions the green organization. ” How is it that the question of their necessary support, for example in terms of training and retraining, or that of improving social and working conditions, are not at the heart of the State’s reflections? “