Climate Action in Travel and Tourism: Less Talk, More Action

November 2021

Travel and tourism creates as much as 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, with calls for “a little less conversation, a little more action” when it comes to the sector’s engagement with the climate, despite progress made since the pandemic. There remains much scope for ramping up innovation in climate action for travel experiences and operations across the supply chain. With COP26, there are high hopes that tourism will emerge as a major catalyst in achieving a net zero emissions future.

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Key Findings

Climate action, not words

The time for talk is over as the world is not yet on track to meet the 2030 targets to reduce carbon emissions by half, let alone reach net zero by 2050. The world would need a global shutdown every year to achieve its goals, which is not realistic. Climate action in travel and tourism – which accounts for as much as 8% of carbon emissions – needs to happen now.

Paradise lost

Travel and tourism represents a double-edged sword for fragile natural habitats. While the sector is a vehicle for job creation, prosperity and equality, if out of control, the sector can damage precious ecosystems and biodiversity. Travel leaders need to step up to meet the challenges of protecting the natural and cultural assets that they rely heavily on.

Holistic, circular approach

Some of the most notable initiatives happening in climate action are when companies take a holistic approach to their operations. Having a view of positive and negative impacts across the lifecycle of products, food, transport or even buildings is increasingly required, moving beyond the mere customer journey of a single trip.

Green tech innovation

There is considerable scope for ramping up innovation in travel and tourism, which lags behind other industries in climate action. There are multiple areas – energy, waste, water, carbon offsetting, electric vehicles – where travel businesses can review operations to not just drive cost efficiencies but also do the right thing – to be a vector of positive change.

Team effort

Travel and tourism offer scope for partnerships, due to the strong linkages throughout the supply chain, but this also adds complexity to challenges like the “code red” climate emergency. COP26 sees the official launch of the Glasgow Declaration, bringing together Tourism Declares under its wing – there is no better time than now to declare.

Key findings


Climate action: why now?
The risks of climate inaction are mounting


Climate change is a global threat

Climate Action in travel and tourism

Travel could do better in engaging with sustainability: a key conduit for climate action
Travel businesses more exposed to climate change risks and impacts
Travel mirrors other industries for climate action: even more engaged with communities
Climate action accelerated in the eye of the pandemic storm for future resilience
Europe shows the greatest interest in climate action, boosted by the EU Green Deal
Environmental sustainability winners and losers

Climate action in travel and tourism

High awareness yet low action: still too much “blah, blah, blah…”
The majority of travel companies do not have a “net zero” strategy in place
Driving system-wide change kickstarted with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency
High hopes for COP26 to decarbonise tourism with the Glasgow Declaration
Travel brand pioneer Intrepid shares its vision for leaving no-one behind
Case study: Palau – the world’s first carbon neutral destination

Climate investments

Leadership and vision from the top is a game-changer
Lack of pressure to act in travel, restrained by lack of passion and funds
Lack of pressure and pandemic shutdown translate into low investment
Putting people first: climate education is the top climate investment priority for travel
Roadmap for aviation to reach net zero by 2050
Consumer interest in sustainability translates into direct action in emerging markets

Climate action case studies

UAE pushes forward with futuristic electric mobility for zero emissions
Lufthansa innovates in renewables, simultaneously educates consumers with Compensaid
Norway uses hydrogen for clean energy to protect UNESCO World Heritage fjords
Tomorrow’s Air and Climeworks put carbon capture front and centre
Global hotel chains launch ground-breaking waste initiative with WWF & Greenview
Google adds CO 2 emissions data to its search results to encourage behavioural change
Bucuti & Tara: first hotel to win UN Climate Action award – offers carbon offset concierge
room2 takes net zero to new levels with “whole life” holistic approach to the hotel’s impacts
The Travel Corp empowers its people to drive change
Challenges to overcome
Become tomorrow’s next leader


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