Reduce flights and impose curfews at French airports, urge campaigners

More than 70 campaign groups signed an open letter calling for a stop to the ‘mad growth of air traffic’

The open letter, signed by more than 70 groups, calls for airports in France to look to Schiphol in Amsterdam as a way to address health and climate concerns
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More than 70 environmental associations in France have called for a reduction in the number of flights at French airports.

In an open letter published on FranceInfo on Tuesday (May 9), they also demanded a curfew at all airports, aerodromes, and heliports in France.

Protesters are expected to hold a demonstration in front of France’s transport ministry on Tuesday evening.

Further protests are expected in France and elsewhere in Europe until Sunday (May 14).

The open letter focuses on four key themes:

1. A stop on air traffic growth

The letter reads: “The mad growth of air traffic must stop. It is unsustainable for the climate and for the millions of people who suffer night and day from aircraft noise and pollution.

“As victims of airport pollution and present and future victims of global warming, we demand a reduction in the number of flights and a curfew at all airports, airfields, and heliports in France.”

2. Health concerns: Noise and air pollution

The letter mentions noise and air pollution as two major sources of health concerns.

Noise complaints

It reads: “Noise is not just a matter of discomfort. It is a major public health problem: sleep disorders, cognitive disorders, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. Its social cost has been estimated by [the French Agency for Ecological Transition] Ademe at €6.1billion annually for airborne noise alone.

“None of the French airports comply with the European directives that require the implementation of noise reduction plans. And only a few airports, such as Orly or Nantes, have imposed curfews, which are still insufficient to allow for a period of sleep that is compatible with a good state of health.”

Air pollution

On the subject of air pollution, the letter is clear. “Air pollution kills,” it states.

“It is the third cause of death in France after alcohol and tobacco. Aircraft engines pollute and, unlike car engines, it is impossible to fit them with particle and nitrogen oxide filters.”

“Moreover, the ultra-fine particles (UFP) they emit are smaller than those from diesel engines and therefore potentially more toxic. Yet, they are neither regulated nor measured.

“Leisure aviation still burns leaded petrol, which has been banned for cars for over 20 years! Air pollution from airports remains the great forgotten issue in air quality policies.”

3. Climate concerns

The letter accuses the airline industry of “greenwashing” and of making the “climate picture appear rosier” than it is.

It states: “Commercial aviation contributes 7% of France's CO2 emissions, and to this must be added the climate impact of emissions other than CO2, in particular condensation trails, which multiply the impact of CO2 alone by at least two.”

It says that le Haut Conseil pour le climat has concluded that “reducing air traffic is essential to meet our climate commitments”. It adds that “sustainable aviation fuels…will not be available in sufficient quantities in the required timeframe”.

The group also writes that the measures taken following the Citizens' Climate Convention were “insignificant” and that this is one of the major reasons behind the protests it has called.

4. Taking notes from the Netherlands

The letter says: “The Dutch government and the operator of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol have understood this. The growth in activity at this airport, which is comparable in size to Roissy, is no longer sustainable.

“So they have decided to reduce the total number of flights, introduce a curfew, ban private aviation, and abandon the new runway project.”

The letter writers say that Ruud Sondag, Schiphol’s CEO, has said: "We cannot ask the people of the region to make sacrifices for years for those who fly only for their holidays."

In contrast, the writers say that the CEO of ADP [Aéroports de Paris], Augustin de Romanet, has called for “reasonable use” of planes, but “continues to enlarge airports and makes traffic growth a non-negotiable objective”.

The letter says: “We ask that France follow the courageous path opened by the Netherlands and finally take concrete measures: limiting the number of flights - while ensuring that noise, air pollution, and CO2 emissions are also reduced - and the generalisation of curfews in airports, airfields, and heliports.”

Signatories include anti-airline noise campaigners, airline alternative activists, residents’ associations, and environmental groups.

These include Greenpeace, France nature environnement, the Union européenne contre les nuisances aériennes (Uecna), the Collectif Stop extension aéroport Marseille-Provence, Agir pour le climat (Taca), and the Association citoyenne de défense du calme Azur (ACDC Azur).

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