Travel’s climate footprint lower than expected, says WTTC

Travel’s climate footprint lower than expected, says WTTC

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed new data detailing the climate footprint of the global Travel & Tourism sector.

The findings were launched at the summit in Riyadh by the WTTC and the Saudi-based Sustainable Global Tourism Centre.

In a world first, this comprehensive research covers 185 countries across all regions and will be updated each year with the latest figures.

During her opening speech Julia Simpson, president & CEO of WTTC announced the findings of the Environmental & Social Research (ESR). In one of the largest research projects of its kind ever undertaken, WTTC can for the first time ever, accurately report and track the impact industries within the sector have on the environment.

Previous estimates have suggested that the global Travel & Tourism sector was responsible for up to 11 per cent of all emissions. However, WTTC’s pioneering research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totalled just 8.1 per cent globally.

The divergence of the sector’s economic growth from its climate footprint between 2010 and 2019 is evidence that travel & tourism’s economic growth is decoupling from its greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions have been falling consistently since 2010 as the result of technological developments, as well as the introduction of a number of energy efficiency measures across industries within the sector.

Between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s GDP has grown on average 4.3 per cent annually whilst its environmental footprint has only increased by 2.4 per cent.

The broader Environmental & Social Research (ESR) will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of Travel & Tourism related employment.

Governments around the world now have a tool to inform their decision-making and accelerate environmental change more accurately.

Simpson said: “Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Travel & Tourism is making huge strides to decarbonise, but Governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of Sustainable Aviation fuels with Government incentives.

“The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids – so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.

“8.1 per cent is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume from today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all.”

During the closing session of WTTC’s Global Summit, the Rwandan capital of Kigali, was announced as the host city for 2023, marking the first time the event will visit Africa.

Rwanda, the home of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, will showcase the power of sustainable tourism to protect biodiversity and create thriving communities.

WTTC recently closed its largest-ever Global Summit with more than 3,000 delegates attending the event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The global tourism body’s Global Summit saw speakers such as former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, and actor, filmmaker, and Golden Globe winner, Edward Norton.

The most influential Travel & Tourism event in the calendar, WTTC’s record-breaking Global Summit, was attended by more than 85 countries and over 50 ministers.

More than 250 media delegates from around the world attended the event, with many thousands of people around the world watching remotely.

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