Reports that France is considering a ban on private jets do not reflect political realities in the European country. But they do highlight growing unease among French citizens and officials – reeling from one of their hottest ever summers – about the impact of business aviation on climate change and energy security.
Rumors of a ban began swirling last week, after Clément Beaune, France’s Transport Minister, conducted multiple interviews with local media declaring his intention to “regulate private jet flights”.
The intervention followed widely publicized remarks by Julien Bayou, the leader of France’s Green Party and an influential figure in the left-wing coalition NUPES, in which he repeatedly called for an outright ban on private jets.
“This measure would penalize the smallest number of people while having the biggest and most immediate positive impact on the climate,” Bayou had told Libération newspaper. “Some people are totally disconnected and take the plane like others take the metro … This is the story of the separatism of the elites: we are on the same planet, but no longer in the same world.”
Minister Beaune has not endorsed that view and – although Bayou plans to put a bill before parliament in October – it’s unlikely that France’s famously pragmatic legislators would vote for a total ban on business aviation.
Instead, the government is weighing up a range of measures aimed at increasing the cost of traveling by private jet while also tightening the rules that allow such journeys to gain clearance. Under legislation introduced last year, France already bans travelers from taking point-to-point domestic flights that could be substituted by a train ride of less than two and a half hours – but private jets are exempt from the restriction.
“Without resorting to demagogy or launching ad hominem attacks, there are some behaviors that are no longer acceptable,” Beaune told Le Parisien newspaper, attempting to strike a middle ground. “We must change that behavior and set rules governing these private flights, at the European level. This is useful and necessary .”
Two specific measures being considered are forcing companies to disclose trips by employees on private jets – essentially naming and shaming the practice – and expanding the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), a quota-based market for carbon permits, to also include business aviation. Beaune insisted that while certain journeys can be considered necessary for urgent business, routinely chartering private jets “just for the comfort of individuals” is not reasonable.
Public discontent about the impact of business aviation has risen markedly in France this year, fueled by extreme summer temperatures – widely seen as a consequence of man-made climate change – and a Europe-wide shortage of natural gas caused by strained relations with Russia.
Social media platforms have galvanized the mood, with accounts on Twitter and Instagram using flight-tracking data to publicize the movements and carbon footprints of jetsetters like the French centibillionaire Bernard Arnault.