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Travel industry takes important first step towards tackling climate change

The travel industry has reached a turning point.

As thousands of scientists, government officials and business leaders met in Glasgow, Scotland, this month for the crucial UN climate summit, hundreds of members of the trillion-dollar tourism industry came together and took the first steps toward a shared road map to cut Made a commitment Carbon emissions will be halved by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050.

More than 300 global travel stakeholders, including tour operators, tourism boards and hotel chains, have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, which requires them to submit a concrete and transparent plan within 12 months. Although details have yet to be revealed, the companies and countries that have signed up, from German railway company Deutsche Bahn AG to Panama, are expected to disclose their carbon emissions and offer clear strategies to reduce them. Will go

The process is being led by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council, two industry bodies that have previously disputed climate matters.

“This is undoubtedly the greatest climate commitment our industry has come together for,” said Jeremy Smith, co-founder of Tourism Declared a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports climate action and the Glasgow Declaration for provides an outline.

The travel industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, with an estimated footprint of between 8% and 11% of total greenhouse gases, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Aviation alone represents about 17% of total travel carbon emissions. Every year, an increasing number of destinations and communities heavily dependent on tourism – countries such as Thailand, India and Madagascar – are affected by the effects of climate change in the form of rising sea levels, drought, wildfires, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. are badly affected.

The pandemic exposed the adverse impact of industry development and over-tourism on Venice, Italy; Bali, Indonesia; and other popular destinations, forcing some places to take stock and move toward more sustainable and eco-friendly business models. Yet with most operators and destinations shutting down the industry last year, it is unclear how many of those plans will be prioritized over the need for a speedy recovery.

Patrick Child, Deputy Director General of the Environment at the European Commission, said, “We need a cultural change, and we need to move beyond the traditional growth-oriented mindset to look at a more sustainable, responsible and climate-neutral tourism ecosystem.” “

‘Lots of nostalgia’

The declaration has four main goals: measurement, requiring companies to disclose all travel and tourism-related emissions; decarbonisation, by setting goals aligned with climate science; regeneration, to restore and protect natural ecosystems; and collaboration, to ensure that best practices are shared and funding is available.

A recent analysis by the World Travel and Tourism Council of 250 travel businesses found that only 42% had publicly announced climate goals, and many of them were not based on the latest science. In early November the council published a road map for the various industries within travel, providing concrete guidance for reaching “net zero” goals by 2050.

“There has been a lot of apathy, some people not sure about what to do and how, or some people thinking they are not important enough, and that is what really shows the way for larger organizations. important,” said Darrell Wade, co-founder and president of Intrepid Travel, the only global tour company with climate goals verified by the Science-Based Goals Initiative, which promotes best practices in emissions reduction in line with climate science.

Joining Deutsche Bahn and Panama in signing the Glasgow Declaration are large companies such as Accor, Skyscanner, Travel Corp and the Iberostar Group, as well as countries already affected by climate change, including Norway and Barbados. The signatories expect more destinations to participate in the coming weeks.

Panama, one of only three carbon-negative countries in the world (meaning that it absorbs more carbon emissions than it emits), has played a major role in setting up initiatives for economic development in tourism, which supports local communities. and also benefits and conserves resources.

“Our main plan for our sustainable tourism market is to empower local communities, especially indigenous peoples, to generate income through tourism that allows them to preserve their ancestral way of life, allowing them to allows to sustainably manage its natural resources such as forests and coral reefs,” said Ivan Eskildson, Minister of Tourism of Panama.

Visit Scotland, the country’s national tourism organization that helped draft the declaration, has also played a major role. The organization has reduced its own carbon emissions by 74% since 2008, and more than 850 local businesses have been awarded Green Tourism Awards for their sustainability efforts.

challenges remain

While the Glasgow Declaration has gained great momentum and established common objectives, challenges lie ahead, especially when it comes to establishing global standards for reporting emissions data for such a wide range of sectors within the industry, From tour operators to destinations, and from airlines to cruise ships.

Signatories are expected to hold each other accountable and set common standards across international supply chains. After the action plan is submitted within the next year, a reporting framework will be necessary. Anyone who fails to submit the road map within that time limit will be removed from the declaration.

Conspicuously absent from the list of signatories were members of the cruise industry. The sector made a separate pledge to pursue carbon-neutral cruises by 2050 and reduce emissions 40% by 2030, in an annual environmental report recently published by the Cruise Line International Association, an industry trade group. While the report makes a detailed commitment to reducing the cruise industry’s carbon footprint by using new technology and alternative fuels, it does not address other environmental issues such as waste discharge.

“Despite technological advances and some monitoring programs, cruises remain a major source of air, water (fresh and marine) and land pollution affecting fragile habitats, regions and species, and a plethora of physical and mental human health risks.” likely source,” according to a recent report in the Journal of Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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