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20 May 2019, 13:12
Benjamin Wehrmann

German parties at odds over idea of banning short-distance flights in Europe

Hamburger Abendblatt / Clean Energy Wire

The idea by socialist EU Commission President Candidate Frans Timmermans to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector by banning short-distance flights in the EU has been met with mixed reactions by political parties in Germany. The leader of pro-business party FDP, Christian Lindner, told newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt that “bans are the most uninspired way of climate policy”. Banning short-distance flights would “only upset people because everything becomes more expensive and less free”, Lindner said, arguing that the focus should be put on finding low-carbon alternatives to current aircraft propulsion systems, such as hydrogen-based fuels. Green Party politician Oliver Krischer, on the other hand, said Social Democrat Timmermans tries to use climate action as a trend topic to woo voters shortly before the EU elections on 26 May.

According to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the number of low-cost flights in Germany has reached a new record level in the winter season 2018/2019. There have been 5,325 take-offs of low-cost carriers per week in this period in the country, a 10 percent-rise compared to the same period one year before, the DLR said. Across Europe, there had been a parallel growth of 7 percent, it added.

At a televised debate on German TV with his conservative competitor Manfred Weber, Timmermans said short-distance flights should be banned in the medium run and replaced with improved train connections. The debate on aviation emissions has gained pace in Germany in the first months of 2019, with leading climate researchers and several politicians calling for radical measures to reduce the impact of air travel on global heating. Environment minister Svenja Schulze in March endorsed a proposal by the Belgian government on tightening regulation for airlines to reduce emissions.

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