When national environmental policies enhance behavioural changes towards the 1.5-degree target

Unsplash, Jakob Rosen
Unsplash, Jakob Rosen

The ban on short-haul domestic flights in France

Although the aviation industry accounts for “only” 2.5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, air travel dominates the individual contribution to climate change of frequent travellers. Beside showing lifestyle inequalities, such figures demonstrate the potential of emission reduction when restrictions are imposed to recurrent air travel habits. 

The latest request of France Citizens' Convention on Climate was clear: in the context of the country’s effort to reduce carbon emissions, short-haul domestic flights cannot be allowed when the journeys between cities can be made by trains within less than 2.5 hours

This game-changing policy proposal was accepted in December 2022 by the European Commission, which made the ban valid for three years and it was recognized as a major step towards the achievement of the 1.5° aspirational targets of the Paris Agreement. 

It sounds like a utopia, but societal willpower keeps pushing in the right direction on this topic, looking at a potential shift of the choice architecture. Known as a choice editing measure, the ban on unsustainable practices can have high and quick impacts on individual lifestyle carbon footprint.  

Nevertheless, to avoid mobility stagnation within national borders, more investment in improved train infrastructures needs to be made by policymakers. 

This conversation led to rumours on the potential total bans of private jets in France: the country “can no longer tolerate people using private planes for their comfort,” as commented by Transport minister Clément Beaune. The growing aviation’s climate impact is disproportionately caused by a very small share of people (just 1% of people cause 50% of global aviation emissions)

A recent study mentions private flights, among others high-carbon-intensive lifestyle choices, as activities from the polluter elites to be banned, if we are to achieve a fair and just transition to a sustainable society.  

Yet, for now, jet owners might only have to deal with heavy taxation and slight restrictions. 

Beatrice Meo, Hot or Cool Institute