Four flights… that’s just two round trips? That’s right. Really in a lifetime, not in a year? Quite ! » The idea was reaffirmed on May 30 on France Inter by engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici, founder and president of the think tank The Shift Project. In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus allow future generations to continue to fly at a minimum. Because oil reserves are exhaustible and alternatives are not available.
Shock, at the start of the summer holidays: the specialized site Flightradar24 recorded a record number of commercial flights – 134,000 – on July 6, 2023. But holidays are not the only cause. Should we give up (or almost) discovering the world, visiting distant family, working in the four corners of the planet… to save it? It’s not easy to reconcile this emergency with our freedom of movement.
Many have rebelled against a punitive vision of ecology. But punitive for whom? Just 1% of the world’s population is responsible for half of air travel’s CO2 emissions, while 80% have never flown. “And the sector weighs heavily: it not only generates 5% of total emissions in France, but also visible condensation trails in the sky, which triple the effect on global warming,” warns Charlène Fleury, coordinator of the international network. Stay on Earth. The minority of frequent travelers is therefore called upon to review their habits to allow as many people as possible to suffer less from climate change.
It’s unstoppable, but the radical transition remains difficult when you have to deal with loved ones, as for Victoria Morin, a former professional at the airline Etihad Airways, who has been working as a consultant on sustainable tourism for three years. “As a family, we now only take one annual plane trip. It’s still too much, but I’m not alone, my husband, who doesn’t have time to travel otherwise, is very attached to it. » The idea is at least to choose destinations that are little impacted by tourism and to think about the meaning given to your trip. But also to gradually give up the plane… This summer, she went to Corsica by sailboat, with the company Sailcoop, for a price comparable to that of a flight in high season.
And the train? Rail is 50 to 80 times less carbon-intensive than air travel, but twice as expensive, according to the Greenpeace report published on July 20. Charlène Fleury still preferred this mode of transport to carry out a professional mission in Uzbekistan, taking her leave to have time to cross Central Asia. “The journey, interspersed with visits, becomes a discovery,” she assures. Nothing punitive, therefore. But we cannot expect everything from the self-limitation of individuals and we must also act at the collective level, according to her: “Airports could limit the number of flights, as that of Amsterdam will soon do, and, like more and more countries, France must tax kerosene. The price of tickets would rise and would be more dissuasive. A more socially just measure would be to tax frequent travelers so that the cost increases with the number of trips. » Not simple, but definitely possible. It’s up to us to steal less in the meantime. Four times in a lifetime? We tend to it!