Does that really still have to be the case? Flying through Germany by plane, when the train is often so much faster? Can't something finally be done about these flights? That's what many Germans think, with a third-ranking ban on short-haul flights among the most important transport measures in the fight for the climate, ahead of the home office - no other is more popular. And now there is a role model: France is banning domestic flights that are not connecting flights if the train takes no more than two and a half hours on the route. Last week, the law was finally passed in parliament. Wouldn't now be the time for Germany to follow suit?
No. Even short-haul domestic flights are rarely booked just for the fun of flying. And not so often because they are cheaper. If you really compare rail and air, rail is often the cheaper mode of transport.
The deception lies in the time involved. Climate protectionists like to claim that flights are not faster than train journeys. After all, you still need time to check-in and get to the airport. They usually add the time needed to get to the airport at the start and end of the journey. However, only very few travelers live directly at the main train station. Some live in the city, and for them, the calculation is still correct. Others live in the city, but are already in the direction of the airport - for some of them, the way to the plane is almost as long as the way to the main station. And the people in the surrounding area! In Munich, the airport is located far to the north - but even there, the trip to the main station is only worthwhile for a few people living in the surrounding area. Even from the south of Munich, the route via the autobahn ring road to the airport is often faster than the traffic jam or the S-Bahn to the ICE. Even a small time saving can mean that flights have their uses - namely when you already have an appointment in the other city at nine in the morning and can't stay overnight.
These are all individual issues that do not apply to everyone. Everyone lives in a different place and has their own schedule. But no one is forced to get on a plane. Those who buy the ticket have a reason to do so. If the airplane is really so useless, then the demand will disappear by itself.
It already does, by the way. The flights that are currently being banned in France hardly exist in Germany anymore. Even the much-discussed flight from Nuremberg to Munich has been suspended for months during the pandemic, and Lufthansa is sending a bus twice a day. Even before the pandemic, all domestic flights together were responsible for only 0.3 percent of Germany's total CO2 emissions. If you want to protect the climate with such a small check, you need 330 other bans before Germany is CO2 neutral.
The right way is a different way. Climate change must be tackled at its source: greenhouse gases. A CO2 price can ensure that fossil kerosene becomes more expensive and that one day it will be worthwhile to use CO2-neutral aviation fuel, which so far still seems quite expensive. If the price is still combined with emission certificates, then there is a fixed upper limit for CO2 emissions that is not exceeded throughout the EU. From year to year, this limit continues to fall. In recent years, this has worked extremely well: The sectors covered by emissions trading have easily achieved their CO2 targets. More climate protection does not require a ban on flights, but a faster meltdown of certificates.Because that's the real irony of it all: the EU already requires emissions certificates for intra-European flights. While these do not cover all the climate effects of flying, they do cover CO2 emissions. For every domestic flight that does not take place, certificates are released - and then the greenhouse gas is emitted elsewhere.
Photo by Yeray Sanchez