Transforming Tourism for Climate Action

Transforming Tourism for Climate Action

Climate Action

The tourism sector is highly vulnerable to climate change and at the same time contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), one of the causes of global warming. Accelerating climate action in tourism is therefore of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector. Climate action is understood as the efforts to measure and reduce GHG emissions and strengthen adaptive capacity to climate induced impacts.1

There is a growing consensus among tourism stakeholders as to how the future resilience of tourism will depend on the sector’s ability to embrace a low carbon pathway and cut emissions by 50% by 2030

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 7% reduction of GHG emissions globally in 20202, providing a tangible reference to the magnitude of the effort still ahead in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which will require around 7% reduction of emissions on an annual basis throughout the next decade.3

According to UNWTO/ITF latest research, released in December 2019 at UNFCCC COP25, CO2 emissions from tourism were forecast to increase at least by 25% by 2030. Therefore, the need to scale up climate action in tourism remains urgent as emissions could rapidly rebound once operations restart and, ultimately, the cost of inaction with regards to climate will be in the long run larger than the cost of any other crisis.

UNWTO is committed to accelerate progress towards low carbon tourism development and the contribution of the sector to international climate goals, in line with the recommendations of the One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector from COVID-19 to:

  • Strengthen the measurement and disclosure of CO2 emissions in tourism
  • Accelerate the decarbonization of tourism operations
  • Engage the tourism sector in carbon removal

Transport-related CO2 emissions from the tourism sector – Modelling results

The report released in December 2019 provides insights into the evolution of tourism demand across the different global regions from 2016 to 2030. It presents the expected transport-related CO2 emissions of the tourism sector against the current (2019) ambition scenario for the decarbonization of transport concluding that in 2016 transport-related emissions from tourism contributed to 5% of all man-made emissions and were set to increase to 5.3 % by 2030 against a current ambition scenario.

Transforming tourism for climate action – Side event at COP25

Transforming tourism for climate action requires embracing a low carbon pathway with awareness and optimization as key elements. Awareness: through measurement and disclosure of the emissions related to tourism activities and the setting of evidence-based targets. Optimization: through instruments and strategies to scale-up mitigation and adaptation in the tourism sector with all stakeholders having to play a role. In the side-event, policy makers discussed their strategic approaches to transform the tourism sector.

Related Links

1. View Goal 13 Targets
2 Carbon Brief
3. Cut Global Emissions by 7.6 Percent Every Year for Next Decade to Meet 1.5°C Paris Target - UN Report