Tourism & Climate Change
The tourism sector is highly vulnerable to climate change. Tourism depends on environmental resources while climate defines the length and quality of tourism seasons. At the same time, tourism contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), the cause of global warming. Accelerating climate action in tourism is therefore of utmost importance for the resilience of the sector.
According to UNWTO/ITF research released in December 2019 at UNFCCC COP25, CO2 emissions from tourism were forecast to increase at least by 25% by 2030.
Therefore, the need to scale up climate action in tourism remains urgent as emissions could rapidly rebound once operations restart and, ultimately, the cost of inaction with regards to climate will be in the long run larger than the cost of any other crisis.
In 2020, the One Planet Vision for a responsible recover of the tourism sector was adopted with the aim to emerge stronger and more sustainable from the COVID-19 crisis. Climate action occupies a central place in the Vision, which calls for monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions from tourism, promoting the introduction of science-based targets, accelerating the decarbonization of tourism operations and engaging the tourism sector in carbon removal.
In May 2021, the G20 Tourism Ministers welcomed the UNWTO Recommendations for the Transition to a Green Travel and Tourism Economy, acknowledging that there is a “growing consensus that recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic must also tackle the underlying reasons and sustainability challenges.”
According to UNWTO recent research, the growing consensus of the importance to scale up climate action in tourism is starting to be reflected in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in which the references to tourism have increased from 41% in 2019 to 46% in 2021. Among those NDCs which mention tourism, there is an increase in references to the sectors vulnerability to climate change (54%, from 21% in 2019) and a priority sector (49%, from 20% in 2019), and more references connecting the sector with adaptation (66%, from 24% in 2019) and mitigation (29%, from 8% in 2019).
The tourism sector has been deeply affected by the pandemic, but the current crisis also represents an opportunity to rethink and restart tourism.