The travel industry has reached a turning point.
As thousands of scientists, government officials and business leaders met in Glasgow over the past two weeks for the pivotal United Nations climate conference, hundreds of members of the trillion-dollar tourism industry came together and made the first commitment toward a shared road map to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050.
More than 300 global travel stakeholders, including tour operators, tourism boards and hotel chains, have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, requiring them to submit a concrete and transparent plan within 12 months. While the details have yet to be put forward, the companies and countries that signed on, from Germany railway company Deutsche Bahn AG to the country of Panama, will be expected to disclose their carbon emissions and offer clear strategies for how to reduce them. The process is being spearheaded by the U.N. World Tourism Organization and the World Travel & Tourism Council, two industry bodies that have previously sparred on climate matters.
“This is undoubtedly the biggest climate commitment our industry has come together for,” said Jeremy Smith, the co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports climate action and provided the framework for the Glasgow Declaration.
“Our initiative launched two years ago because the industry had no collective plan, and we did well getting over 400 tourism organizations on board without funding,” he said. “But the Glasgow Declaration builds on our work. It’s the coming together of major players in our sector and it’s owned by everyone who has signed it, establishing collective responsibility.”
The travel industry is a large contributor to global carbon emissions, with a footprint estimated between 8 and 11 percent of total greenhouse gases, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, or W.T.T.C. Aviation alone represents around 17 percent of total travel carbon emissions. Each year, a growing number of destinations and communities heavily dependent on tourism — countries like Thailand, India and Madagascar — are hit hard by the impacts of climate change, in the form of rising sea levels, drought, wildfires, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
This is an excerpt from an article by Ceylan Yeginsu, originally published by The New York Times.