French minister calls for restrictions on flights by private jet

French transport minister Clément Beaune has called for flights by private jets to be restricted because of their outsize contribution to climate change, joining an increasingly heated debate in France about measures needed to save energy and limit global warming.

“Without resorting to demagogy or launching ad hominem attacks, there are some behaviours that are no longer acceptable,” Beaune, who is close to President Emmanuel Macron, told Le Parisien newspaper at the weekend. “I think we should act to regulate flights by private jets.”

While there might be urgent business trips, private jet flights could not be taken “just for the comfort of individuals” given the efforts demanded of ordinary people by Macron, Beaune said.

Some Green and leftwing politicians, who make up the largest opposition bloc in the French National Assembly since the June elections, have called for an outright ban on private jet use by business leaders and the wealthy and say they want to propose a draft law in the autumn.

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“I Fly Bernard”, one of several recently launched Twitter accounts, has garnered more than 60,000 followers for its campaign to track flights and name and shame the users of private jets. The account’s name is a reference to LVMH founder Bernard Arnault, Europe’s richest person.

French transport minister Clément Beaune has said it would be more effective to have an EU-wide system of carbon taxation or regulation of private jet flights than a solution purely for France © Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s time to ban private jets,” Julien Bayou, the national secretary of the Greens, said last week. “It’s the measure that would penalise the smallest number of people for the biggest and most immediate impact in favour of the climate,” he told Libération newspaper.

Public awareness of climate change, and of rising fuel costs triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has surged in France during a summer of extreme drought, forest fires and high prices for petrol and diesel at the pump.

Macron and his ministers have called on citizens to save energy and are preparing legislation to accelerate investment in renewables, and they are anxious not to be seen to be asking ordinary people to make sacrifices while allowing the wealthy to live their lives unaffected.

“The idea is not to impose a ban or infringe on freedoms,” one government official said. “But there’s a real issue here if we’re asking Mr and Mrs Anybody to turn down their heating and switch off the lights in the winter and then someone is taking a flight for fun from Paris to Nice.” 

Beaune wants to raise the issue at an EU transport ministers’ meeting in October and has said it would be more effective to have an EU-wide system of carbon taxation or regulation of private jet flights than a purely French solution.

One model might be the clause in the French law on climate change and resilience that is supposed to limit domestic commercial flights when the distance can be covered by train in less than two and a half hours. However, this part of the law was watered down by the Senate to allow short flights where most passengers were in transit from other flights, and has yet to be implemented.

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