One of the hardest climate puzzles to solve is how to cut greenhouse gases from airplanes. International travel is essential, but zero-emission flights are decades away. In Europe, where transport accounts for a quarter of emissions
, policymakers may have a solution: get people to take the train instead.
Countries including France, Germany and Austria are spending billions of euros to remake the continent’s aging railway system. Their leaders are hoping to spur a renaissance in international train journeys, especially as the coronavirus pandemic ebbs and travel picks up again. After all, hopping on a train is often more convenient than flying (for one thing, there’s no airport security).
The European Union has an interest in pitting modes of transport against each other—it could push operators to find ways to lower their climate impact without passing costs on to the consumer. It’s a question of making rail more attractive, “instead of banning or disincentivizing aviation, ” says European Transport Commissioner Adina Valean.