PARIS, FRANCE — A new law banning short domestic flights that can be completed in two-and-a-half hours by train was officially enacted in France on Tuesday. France's Transport Minister, Clement Beaune, lauded the measure, stating it is a critical move and a potent symbol in the pursuit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Beaune expressed his views on the contradiction between continuing short-haul flights and striving for a decarbonized lifestyle. He questioned the need for air travel between major cities that already have fast, efficient, and frequent train connections.

Under the new legislation, only three routes have been eliminated: those connecting Paris-Orly airport with Bordeaux, Nantes, and Lyon. The law will not impact connecting flights.

The European Union stipulated certain conditions for the ban's application. The air route in question must have a high-speed rail alternative that enables travel between the two cities in less than two-and-a-half hours. Furthermore, there must be a sufficient number of early and late trains to allow travelers to spend at least eight hours at the destination.

The law has faced some backlash, with critics accusing French President Emmanuel Macron of diluting proposals from his own environmental panel. The panel initially suggested a ban on flights where a train journey would take less than four hours.

Detractors argue that high-speed train lines were already diverting passengers away from airlines. They claim the new law merely symbolically acknowledges climate concerns without truly addressing them.

Former vice president of Air France's pilots' union, Guillaume Schmid, criticized the measure on Twitter, stating that passengers are naturally opting out of flights on these routes. Jo Dardenne, an aviation director at Transport & Environment, a cleaner transport advocacy group, echoed Schmid's sentiment. He argued that the French flight ban is more of a symbolic gesture and will have minimal impact on emission reduction.

According to T&E, the three routes affected by the ban account for only 0.3% of the emissions from flights departing mainland France, and 3% of the country’s domestic flight emissions (considering only mainland domestic flights).