Greenpeace Is Challenging the E.U. to Ban Short Flights and Shift to Trains

Greenpeace, an environmental group, called upon the European Union (EU) to prohibit short flights for routes that require a minimum of six hours to travel by train. This is a signal that governments are being forced to make bolder decisions to prevent climate catastrophe.

According to Wednesday’s research, more than a third (or 150) of Europe’s busiest short-haul routes have a rail option with travel times that are comparable to the EU standard. This is just days before the COP26 climate summit. According to the Greenpeace report and OBC-Transeuropa, links to non-EU countries like Norway, Switzerland, and the U.K. offer additional opportunities to replace flying.
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These demands are made just days before the delegates meet in Glasgow, Scotland for talks on preventing catastrophic climate change. Greenpeace wants more government funding for rail infrastructure improvements, making traveling by train easier and reviving underused routes such as night trains. The group stated that reducing air travel is vital to achieving rapid carbon-dioxide emission cuts.

Greenpeace also advocates for the end of policies that reduce airline ticket prices, like kerosene or value-added taxes exemptions. This will help rail travel to be on an even price basis. Monopolies on many train services — including those run by governments — are another factor that tends to make trains more expensive.

The demand for a tougher stance on air travel contrasts with aviation industry calls for a coordinated push, rich with subsidies and incentives, to accelerate the introduction of technologies like sustainable aviation fuels — while fighting off more-drastic measures that would raise costs or clamp down on flying.

Governments and other climate groups are putting pressure on the aviation industry to reduce carbon emissions. This call will be amplified at the climate summit. While long-haul flying is responsible for a bulk of aviation’s emissions, short-haul routes are worse per passenger and per kilometer due to the energy required for taking off, according to Greenpeace.

Planes emit about five times more CO2 than planes on similar routes, the report said — a figure that will vary depending on aircraft type, length of journey, whether the train is diesel or electrified, and how the electricity is generated.

While governments are making some initial steps towards limiting flying, Greenpeace has called for quicker action.

“The EU must stop flying into the climate crisis, and implement a serious plan to revitalise our railways, instead of continuing to support air over rail,” Greenpeace said in the report. “Rather than trying to return to the unsustainable air travel volumes of the past, we should focus on adopting less polluting and more climate-friendly solutions.”

EU proposed regulations to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuels. It also proposed taxation on aviation fuel in its Fit for 55 package.

Some members have attempted to reduce short-haul travel as part the Covid-19 support package that was designed to bail out financially strapped airlines.

Austria announced that it would impose minimum 40 euro ($45) tickets to discourage un-vital travels, while hiking fees will be imposed on flights less than 350 km (217 miles). This raises the price of tickets to $30 euros. France forced Air France KLM to stop services connecting cities less than two and a half hours by train, as part of its 7 billion euro bailout.

Greenpeace noted that the French measures have been weakened by exemptions, and only a small number of routes could be banned.


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