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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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