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Effective steps urged for transforming tourism for climate action

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Tourism’s carbon emissions measured in a landmark report launched at COP25

News Desk

Madrid, Spain: The world tourism watchdog has called for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to effectively transform tourism for climate action.

Transport-related emissions from tourism are expected to account for 5.3% of all man-made CO2 emissions by 2030, up from 5% in 2016, a landmark new report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, and the International Transport Forum (ITF) shows.

At the same time, as tourist numbers rise and the sector makes progress in achieving low-carbon travel, emissions per passenger kilometer are expected to decline over the coming decade, the report says.

Launched at an official side-event of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme during the UN Climate Summit, COP25 in Madrid, the “Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector” presents the emissions produced by the different modes of tourism transport. As the number of both international and domestic tourists continues to rise, this data is presented alongside the predicted growth in emissions to 2030 and is set against the so-called ‘current ambition´ for the decarbonization of transport.

Presenting the report, UNWTO Executive Director Manuel Butler said: “This comprehensive study analyses the environmental impact of the different modes of transport within the tourism sector. It is now for the tourism sector, especially tourism policymakers to use data effectively and ensure the sector plays a leading role in addressing the climate emergency.”

Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) addressed the need to scale efforts towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement: “While tourism is mentioned in many Nationally Determined Contributions as a big concern, not enough has yet been done. Industry must do more, but governments must align their policies, so that at the international level we can collectively work to increase ambition. The One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme is a vital ongoing mechanism to promote sustainable tourism around the world.”

The report finds that against the current ambition scenario, transport-related CO2 emissions from tourism are predicted to increase from 1.6 billion tonnes to 2 billion tonnes between 2016 and 2030, representing a 25% rise.

During the same period, the report says, international and domestic arrivals are expected to increase from 20 billion to 37 billion, mainly driven by domestic tourism (from 18.8 billion to 35.6 billion), followed by international arrivals (1.2 billion to 1.8 billion).

Transport-related emissions from tourism represented 5% of all man-made emissions in 2016 and will increase to 5.3% by 2030, it says.

Tourism-related transport emissions represented 22% of all transport emissions in 2016 and will continue doing so in 2030 (21%), the findings of the report notes. 

Moving to a ‘high ambition scenario’

Tourism’s transport-related CO2 emissions remain a major challenge and require tourism to work closely with transport in order to support its commitment to accelerate the decarbonazition process and the implementation of a high ambition scenario.

In addition, the tourism sector must determine its own high ambition scenario, complementing the efforts of the transport sector. Here, tourism would advance towards significantly decoupling growth from emissions in order to grow within the international climate targets.

UNWTO is the leading international organization with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. Its membership includes 158 countries, 6 territories, 2 permanent observers and over 500 Affiliate Members.

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