COP25: Travel Tourism Must Transform to Survive, Thrive

COP25 flags
COP25 flags

Published Dec 4, 2019 10:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The travel and tourism sector, with its significant economic and social benefits, has no choice but to transform to survive and thrive in the face of climate change, said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at COP25 in Madrid this week.

In 2018, the industry generated 10.4 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product, over $8.8 trillion, but climate change puts those numbers at risk.

The travel and tourism industry accounts for around eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Thanks to this sector, millions of people have been able to explore new destinations, reunite with family and friends and fulfill dreams of exploring the world,” said Espinosa at an event organized by the industry group World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). “As well, it has created jobs, most significantly in developing countries, offering people financial freedom. It is truly a global economic powerhouse. With this sort of success, why should you change what you have been doing? Frankly, because you have no choice. None of us does,” said Espinosa.

“The ravages of climate change will soon require all of us, government and corporations especially, to do things differently,” she said, citing a recent open letter from heads of leading financial institutions: “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”

WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said WTTC has set as an ambition for the sector to be climate neutral by 2050, in collaboration with UN Climate Change, and many companies are already showing leadership in reducing their climate impact. Last year, the organization signed up to the United Nations Climate Neutral Now initiative with a pledge to measure its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce what it can and offset the rest, while promoting the same climate-friendly regimen to its 150 members worldwide.

And in New York in September of this year, WTTC launched a Sustainability Action Plan, meant to help the industry deliver on its climate ambition.

“We need to find a way to have climate-friendly travel... Saying simply ‘do not travel, it will help the environment’ would be very irresponsible” leading to increased poverty, increased unemployment and ultimately increased damage to the environment, said Guevara.