Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

UN News/Elizabeth Scaffidi A woman selling flowers in Vietnam’s tourist-laden Hanoi wears a mask to mitigate breathing in polluted air.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is calling for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to combat climate change.

On the sidelines of the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, the agency on Wednesday released on Wednesday the Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector report, which estimates that by 2030, transport-related emissions from tourism will comprise 5.3 per cent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

“This comprehensive study analyses the environmental impact of the different modes of transport within the tourism sector”, UNWTO Executive Director Manuel Butler said at the launch.

UNWTO said transport-related emissions remain a major challenge: “While tourism is mentioned in many Nationally Determined Contributions as a big concern, not enough has yet been done”, said Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Against the backdrop of a growing number of sightseers both at home and abroad, the data factors in the predicted growth in global emissions to 2030 and is set against the “current ambition” for the decarbonization of transport.

“Industry must do more, but Governments must align their policies, so that at the international level we can collectively work to increase ambition”, Mr. Sarmad added. “The One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme is a vital ongoing mechanism to promote sustainable tourism around the world.”

Research revealed

  • Transport-related CO2 emissions from tourism are predicted to increase from 1,597 million tonnes to 1,998 million tonnes between 2016 and 2030.
  • International and domestic arrivals are expected to rise from 20 to 37 billion, mainly driven by domestic tourism followed by international arrivals.
  • Tourism-related transport emissions represented 22 per cent of all transport emissions in 2016, a trend that will continue through 2030.

High ambition scenario

Transport-related CO2 emissions remain a major challenge and require tourism sectors to work closely with transport sectors worldwide in order to support its commitment to accelerate decarbonization.

In addition, the tourism industry must determine its own high ambition scenario, complementing the efforts of the transport sector, such as by significantly decoupling growth from emissions, allowing expansion within the international climate targets.

“It is now for the tourism sector, especially tourism policy makers, to use data effectively and ensure the sector plays a leading role in addressing the climate emergency”, concluded the UNWTO chief.

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