Greenfish was featured in the Belgian journal L’echo, with an opinion article about air transport in Europe and its impact on the environement, written by Quentin Lancrenon, Jean Jacobs et Nassim Daoudi, respectively Project analyst, Consultant and CEO of Greenfish.

This news is taken over from the original one and translated from French into English.

Image: Ryanair has entered the top 10 most polluting companies in Europe alongside 9 coal companies.

Favouring short train journeys in the European Union over short flights would have many positive effects.

The government is going to ban us from flying! This is a proposal that will not please everyone but it will have the merit of reducing our carbon footprint. This proposal is as ambitious as that of the second chamber of the Dutch parliament that proposed the ban on Amsterdam-Brussels flights. If this proposal is adopted, the Dutch government, which owns 12.68% of Air France-KLM, could put pressure on the airline to eliminate its current five daily routes.

Air transport currently accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, but due to its exponential growth, this sector’s share could rise to 22% in 2050. Indeed, with its 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gases emitted in 2018, Ryanair has entered the top 10 most polluting companies in Europe alongside 9 companies in the coal industry.

Faced with this situation, the Belgian and Dutch governments, supported by the French Secretary of State for Ecological Transition, at the European summit on March 5th, proposed to tax CO2 emissions from air transport or even to tax kerosene (currently exempt from any taxation). After all, taking into account the urgency of the climate situation, why not broaden these ambitious initiatives?

Some existing railway links already compete with aviation in terms of travel time: in Europe, high-speed lines such as London-Paris, London-Manchester, Madrid-Barcelona or Brussels-London are already competitive. A decision similar to that of the Amsterdam-Brussels route could significantly reduce carbon emissions. For example, by eliminating the Brussels-Amsterdam and Brussels-London routes, a quick calculation indicates that 33,321 tonnes of CO2 could be avoided each year.

For example, by eliminating the Brussels-Amsterdam (212 km) and Brussels-London (372 km) routes, a quick calculation indicates that 33,321 tonnes of CO2 could be avoided each year *. This would represent the equivalent of emissions of 3.5 COP 21 per year. Imagine the impact of similar decisions in other European countries…

The unflattering assessment of rail transport

However, in order to offer economically viable alternatives to passengers, the renovation of train lines will have to be taken into account and its financial impact will have to be measured.

Today, the European Court of Auditors makes an unflattering assessment of the progress made in high-speed rail transport. As the objectives listed by the European Union are not supported by credible analysis, the lack of a long-term perspective and insufficient consultation between Member States has already led to expensive and inadequate work being carried out.

To have the means to achieve its climate change objectives, the European Commission must put in place significant measures on strategic rail sections, as identified in advance by thorough studies.

The development of these axes must be accompanied by legislative and material coordination across cross-border networks to enable operators to make optimal use of infrastructure.

Promoting short train journeys in the EU would also have other positive effects: reduced noise pollution, job creation, reduced dependence on fossil fuels (kerosene), increased profitability of infrastructure, etc.

However, the project is a major one and will have to involve ambitious political decisions in the aviation sector. This could finally legitimize credible, high-quality and competitive alternatives in order to allow passengers to see the allure of trains compared to planes over these distances.


* Knowing that the CO2 emission of a passenger between Brussels and Amsterdam and between Brussels and London is respectively 20 kg (vs 1.82 kg by train) and 44 kg (vs 4.2 kg for the same train journey).