Travel Tourism Must Transform to Survive (UN Climate Change Executive Secretary)
Madrid – The travel and tourism sector, with its significant economic and social benefits, has no choice but to transform to survive and thrive in the face of climate change, said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at COP25 to industry representatives.
In 2018, the industry generated 10.4 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product—or more than USD 8.8 trillion—but climate change puts those numbers, and more, at risk.
Whilst the travel and tourism industry generated 10.4% of global Gross Domestic Product in 2018, it also accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change.
“Thanks to this sector, millions of people have been able to explore new destinations, reunite with family and friends, and fulfill dreams of exploring the world,” said Ms. Espinosa at an event organized Wednesday by the industry group World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
“As well, it has created jobs, most significantly in developing countries, offering people financial freedom. It is truly a global economic powerhouse.”
“With this sort of success, why should you change what you have been doing? Frankly, because you have no choice. None of us does,” said Ms. Espinosa.
“The ravages of climate change will soon require all of us, government and corporations especially, to do things differently,” said Ms. Espinosa, citing a recent open letter from heads of leading financial institutions: “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”
In opening remarks at the event, WTTC President and Chief Executive Officer Gloria Guevara said the message is already clear to her organization’s members, and climate and environment are “top priority.”
WTTC has set as an ambition for the sector to be climate neutral by 2050, in collaboration with UN Climate Change, and many companies are already showing leadership in reducing their climate impact: “In order for us to grow, the growth has to be good for everyone; it has to be sustainable,” said Ms. Guevara.
The organization last year signed up to the United Nations Climate Neutral Now initiative with a pledge to measure its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce what it can and offset the rest, while promoting the same climate-friendly regimen to its 150 members worldwide.
And in New York in September of this year, WTTC launched a Sustainability Action Plan, meant to help the industry deliver on its climate ambition.
“We need to find a way to have climate-friendly travel [. . .] Saying simply ‘do not travel, it will help the environment’ would be very irresponsible” leading to increased poverty, increased unemployment and ultimately increased damage to the environment, said Ms. Guevara.
The 25th UN Climate Change Conference opened Monday in Madrid with the participation of 196 countries, including Morocco.
The conference is designed to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process. Following agreement on the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP 24 in Poland last year, a key objective is to complete several matters with respect to the full operationalization of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The conference furthermore serves to build ambition ahead of 2020, the year in which countries have committed to submit new and updated national climate action plans. Crucial climate action work will be taken forward in areas including finance, the transparency of climate action, forests and agriculture, technology, capacity building, loss and damage, indigenous peoples, cities, oceans and gender.
The UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 (2 – 13 December 2019) takes place under the Presidency of the Government of Chile and is held with logistical support from the Government of Spain.