Tourism Climate Action
Implementation Report 2023
The Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism Implementation Report 2023 presents the results of a systematic review of all progress updates received from signatories during the first reporting exercise conducted between January and June 2023...
Characteristics of Climate Action Plans
The Climate Action plans Received are mainly from business signatories (59%), followed by supporting organization signatories (30%) and destination signatories (12%).
The plans are diverse and, in most cases, the first Climate Action Plan for the signatory organizations. They have been developed in-house.
66% of Climate Action Plans include emissions measurement. A great variety of approaches are being used to measure and many new initiatives are emerging.
75% of Climate Action Plans describe decarbonization actions. Yet, the choice of actions is not related to their relative impacts. Half of the plans (54%) with decarbonization actions include offsetting as a subsidiary strategy.
70% of Climate Action Plans refer to actions that could be framed under the regenerate pathway for the time being there is no consistency. Out of these plans, 44% report engaging with local communities; 37% focus on adaptation; 29% connect to climate justice.
66% of Climate Action Plans report working on climate action through networks and supply chain and 56% report engaging on training.
44% include references to resources budgeted or needed and very few signatories report benefitting from external funding.
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Climate action plans
- The Glasgow Declaration has catalysed the creation of hundreds of independently conceived Climate Action Plans and reports, guided by and aligned to its simple, flexible, shared framework of five pathways: measure, decarbonize, regenerate, collaborate and finance. This approach has stimulated a multiplicity of diverse responses, representing the complexity of tourism and its many stakeholders. It is likely that the same level of response would not have happened had the initial requirements been too onerous or restrictive.
- Most of the Climate Action Plans received are from business signatories (59%), followed by supporting organization signatories (30%) and destination signatories (12%). Plans are predominantly forward looking, presenting the commitments to action that the organizations intend to make. They do not yet report on progress achieved or challenges faced during the implementation. It is expected that this focus will shift as implementation gains speed, providing insights into how the sector is proceeding towards its long-term goals.
- The Climate Action Plans submitted by signatories are varied in how they have been developed. While 82% are standalone plans, 18% form part of a wider sustainability plan. The majority of plans (77%) have been created by the signatories in-house. Only 23% involved working either with expert support (often to deliver the measurement of emissions) or were guided and supported by a membership network or sustainable tourism scheme.
- Plans go into varying levels of detail concerning the approaches to climate action. A small number of plans (17%) contain only the objectives that the signatory is focusing upon. However, the vast majority (83%) detail the specific actions the signatory is undertaking or has planned to achieve such objectives. The inclusion of an action within a plan does not mean that it is being carried out, but provides the basis for subsequent reporting on progress and challenges in future years, which will support other signatories in their efforts.
- While the primary focus of all plans is the signatory’s own climate action, some also used the opportunity to seek to catalyse wider engagement either of their supply chain, similar type of organizations, or at destination level. Encouraging collaborations can support a coordinated approach that is grounded in practitioners’ real experiences. It can also avoid the duplication of effort or confusion (for stakeholders or tourists) that could result from multiple unconnected initiatives developing too far down different paths.
- For the vast majority of signatories, not only is this their first ever attempt at creating a Climate Action Plan; they additionally have made the commitment while trying to rebuild from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, many responses to the survey comment on the challenges their financial situation presents when looking to secure the time and resources needed, or express concern that the potential benefits of climate action are not evident, could not be measured, or that customers would not be interested.
- When the combined content of the Climate Action Plans and progress reports submitted by Glasgow Declaration signatories is considered, the richness of the evolving work portrays an emerging network of stakeholders innovating solutions, creating resources, connecting across supply chains and involving destinations and communities. The analysis also highlights what gaps and challenges remain and where there is a need for additional focus, investment or support.
- The majority of signatories which submitted plans are also now measuring some or all aspects of their operations (66%), mostly referring to CO2 and less often to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A further 11% of plans mention in some way that the signatory is now engaging in measurement, even if not yet able to report figures.
- Of the plans reporting measurement:
- The majority (76%) also share detail on how they measure (including methodologies, challenges and actions) and a great variety in approaches has been made evident;
- Just over half (57%) contain a baseline year of emissions measurement, with 2022 being the most common year selected;
- Less than half (42%) are using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol6 scopes framework, while many others indicate the specific emission sources they record.
- Reporting on scope 3 emissions remain a challenge given the diversity of business models of the tourism sector (often inside of a specific company). Where signatories do report their scope 3 emissions (39% of those measuring), these emissions nearly always account for over 75% of total emissions.
- Only 22% of the plans which report measurement include the emissions related to transport to and from the destination, and these are mainly plans from tour operators and destinations.
- As engagement with measurement develops, the need for consensus around measurement methodologies, which sources to include, and which stakeholders are responsible for including them in their boundaries, is of growing importance.
- The emergence of multiple measurement initiatives led by a variety of signatories further highlights the need to ensure alignment and complementarity between the many approaches and tools.
- The majority of Climate Action Plans (75%) describe specific decarbonization actions. The diversity of approaches reported provides an extensive and ever-growing database of actions applicable to different stakeholders, which can be shared and adapted by others to their specific circumstances.
- The majority of Climate Action Plans are still not specific in how their decarbonization actions will achieve their emissions reduction targets and over what time period, and therefore the alignment with the overall targets proposed by the Glasgow Declaration is only implicit for the time being. Around 27% of Climate Action Plans have explicitly outlined more specific targets, for example differentiating their targets for scopes 1, 2 and 3.
- There is only a limited sense of signatories prioritizing which actions they choose according to their relative impact. The experience of those frontrunners which are meaningfully engaging in prioritizing their actions should be explored and shared, while also looking outside the tourism sector for other effective and applicable approaches. Mechanisms should be explored to connect practitioners working on the same or similar actions. The resulting knowledge sharing can catalyse further development and accelerate progress.
- The impact of COVID-19 impact on society and the tourism sector can be seen throughout the selection of decarbonization strategies. Remote working, virtual meetings and reduced business travel are almost omnipresent in Climate Action Plans, and the way they are being implemented shows that they have often moved from being crisis response to conscious business strategy.
- There is an opportunity to build on progress being made in business travel and events (which are often driven by greater reporting obligations), for example in a range of issues such as travel, food waste or engagement of the supply chain.
- Offsetting is included in 54% of submitted plans, of which 82% say they support standard offsetting, 4% report investing in carbon removal, and 14% support some other form of nature-based solutions. However, plans consistently position offsetting as additional to their decarbonization strategy and/or state they are investigating alternatives.
- The regenerate pathway is less addressed, despite it potentially offers the greatest opportunity for tourism to play a leading, transformative role. While 70% of the plans refer to actions that could be included in this pathway (e.g., climate adaptation, ecosystems restoration, climate justice, regenerative tourism), there remains considerable opportunity to develop more innovative approaches. At present, regeneration is too often seen as being just about providing financial support to others through offsetting, carbon removal or nature-based solutions. There is less focus on how to redesign core tourism products and experiences to become regenerative.
- There is limited focus on climate adaptation or risk in plans so far submitted, with 37% making reference or dedicating actions towards addressing the matter in the context of their operations. Where it is happening, it is mostly being mentioned by companies based in emerging economies or by some destination organizations or larger corporations with the resources to undertake research on risk. However, because much of this research is widely relevant to other stakeholders (e.g., those in the same destination facing the same risks), its wider dissemination should be encouraged to support all actors.
- While 44% of plans make reference to the signatory engaging with the communities where they operate in some way, there is limited evidence of Climate Action Plans actively looking to address the needs of more vulnerable or marginalized peoples, or ensure the inclusivity of approaches. Only 29% of plans make reference to issues related to climate justice, and this was not always in the context of climate, but as part of a wider sustainability strategy. However, where addressed, signatories show how they are connecting their climate action with issues around equity, livelihood opportunities, equal access, inclusive travel and the importance of supporting and being guided by indigenous communities and their experiences.
- There is limited connection made between the health of the planet, climate and ecosystems, and human health and well-being. The ability of tourism to connect visitors with the natural world (and finance its preservation and restoration through their participation) must be further promoted.
- A clearer picture is emerging of the differing, complementary roles that various stakeholders (e.g., destination management organizations (DMOs), trade bodies, large corporations, tour operators, certifiers or consultancies) can play to further accelerate progress and deliver sectorwide climate action. One of the most encouraging signs is the extent to which stakeholders are seeking to connect and collaborate when looking to deliver climate action.
- Numerous plans (66%) report working on climate action through a range of different membership programmes and initiatives. Signatories report a growing range of resources being created to support their networks. While not all of these are publicly available and many are tailored to their specific audiences, the potential to adapt and share resources, and catalyse wider and rapid development should be considered.
- Increasing numbers of organisations are engaging actively with their supply chains as part of their Climate Action Plans. Approaches include distributing supplier questionnaires, demanding proof of climate commitments or providing climate action training. There is potential to build on what has been learned from these approaches and more widely develop applicable tools to support progress by other actors.
- Several plans (56%) report engaging in different aspects of training concerning climate action. These range from supporting their staff and community members (e.g., universities, trade bodies or DMOs) to further engaging with guests on relevant issues. There is an opportunity to review and build on these, so as to share the benefits from their learnings, avoid duplication of effort elsewhere, and accelerate wider uptake.
- Signatories which have developed their plans as part of a geographical or sectoral network (e.g., through a national sustainable tourism programme, certification scheme, or proactive membership organization, or with the support of specialists in measurement or climate science), tend to create more thorough and thoughtful plans.
- The current status confirms the value added of working collectively and represents an opportunity to further nurture emerging networks. By connecting frontrunning actors and their initiatives to one another and to the wider landscape of tourism stakeholders, progress can be accelerated and support catalysed for those less advanced or resourced.
- For many signatories, the finance pathway needs greater consideration. At present 44% of plans include reference to resources budgeted and/or needed. It is understandable that – because the vast majority of plans are the signatory’s first ever Climate Action Plans – there are statements of future intent rather than reports on past progress. The awareness of the need for sufficient funding to ensure delivery of commitments is likely to emerge in later iterations.
- In addition, many signatories continue to mention the impact of COVID-19 on their finances restricting their capacity to deliver. This too, should fade in significance as the sector continues to recover.
- However, more work may be needed to increase the stakeholders’ understanding of the importance of ensuring that the capacity is in place to deliver on the commitments made in their plans. Few signatories actually link finance and accountability by detailing the staffing, processes and management responsibilities put in place to ensure the delivery on their commitments.
- There is only limited mention of signatories benefiting from funding to develop aspects of their climate action. Wherever such support is available, it is essential to ensure the mechanisms are in place for organizations to be aware of opportunities and able to apply.
- There is limited mention of stakeholders adjusting their financial strategies to take into account the relative emissions of different options. When carbon costs are mentioned (for example in consultancy proposals), companies often do include only the cost of offsetting business travel. While mentioned rarely, such concepts deserve greater consideration, and it is expected that it will be developed in future plans.
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