Progress in reducing carbon intensity in the travel and tourism industry can be attributed to several actions, according to a new report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
“Our report notes that the impacts of climate change are already beginning to be experienced with lower crop yields and more intense storms and heat waves.
The overall warming across the past three decades has been concentrated in oceans, leading to expansion that is eroding coastlines and increasing sea levels. It is also leading to acidification, which threatens marine life,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC, told Fin24.
“The confluence of these factors may result in serious socio-economic ripple effects, which will bring challenges to food supply, health problems, displacement of people, increased poverty and geopolitical conflicts related to energy and natural resources.”
The latest report shows that many large role players in the industry have already improved their carbon efficiency by 20% in the last ten years and are on course to reach the target of a 25% reduction by 2020.
According to the report the global travel and tourism industry has made strong progress with accountability and responsibility, for instance, particularly in admitting to the challenge of tackling climate change and setting out plans to address and measure it.
WTTC members also demonstrated community engagement, charitable contributions, disaster relief or conservation efforts – deforestation in particular – while others focus on preserving coral reefs, hosting bee colonies on rooftops, managing waste, or ensuring sustainable sourcing.
The report, which comes in the run up to the COP21 climate change talks in Paris at the end of this year, also found that most travel and tourism companies now have branded sustainability programmes, often including customer engagement programmes. Most WTTC member companies have achieved green certification of some type.
Greening supply chains is another aspect WTTC members focus on, developing practical tools to help procurement from local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of this.
“While the sector has grown, added more jobs and contributed billions of dollars to economies all over the world, we have seen real commitment to sustainability from business as companies innovate and collaborate with others to reduce their overall impacts.”
In his view the next 20 years will be characterised by the industry fully integrating climate change and related issues into its business strategy, supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy, strengthening resilience at a local level against climate risks, promoting the value of responsible travel, and greening entire supply chains.
“To reach these long term goals, much still needs to be done across travel and tourism and other sectors, but we now have a common understanding and are ever-closer to agreement on the global actions necessary,” said Scowsill.
The WTTC report outlines five priority areas for the travel and tourism industry to support the overall target of halving emissions by 2035.
The first is to integrate climate change and related issues into business strategy. This can be done by disclosing climate change issues in mainstream financial reporting, utilising recognised frameworks and collaborating to harmonise the approach for disclosure within the industry.
Secondly, the leading practice of establishing an internal price of carbon, focusing on renewables for new investments, seeking low carbon financing mechanisms, contributing to local economies with carbon mitigation and catalysing the economies of scale to create a virtuous circle, must be followed.
The value that local natural and cultural heritage has for travel and tourism and forging partnerships to build resilience against climate risks, is the fourth priority area stipulated in the report.
Fourthly, travellers must be provided with the tools to be responsible travellers and be offered new experiences tied directly to low carbon solutions.
Last, there must be engagement across the value chain by focussing efforts on the biggest opportunities to reduce carbon emissions through mechanisms such as supplier screening and local procurement.
“Travel and tourism is in a unique position to build consumer awareness of the world’s key supply chain threats by engaging travellers to link the destinations they visit with the issues back home in their own purchasing decisions as consumers and professionals,” the report states.