Tourism and aviation commitments at COP26

A review

At least eight percent of global carbon emissions are attributable to tourism. Meanwhile, it is a fast-growing industry. Therefore, transforming tourism is crucial in order to achieve the Paris climate goals.

More than 300 tourism stakeholders allied at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow 2021 (COP26) to launch the "Glasgow Declaration - A commitment to a decade of tourism climate action." The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) also embraces the declaration. The Glasgow Declaration is an impetus to advance climate action in tourism and ensure strong measures and commitments. It aims to halve tourism-induced emissions over the next ten years and to achieve net zero emissions as early as possible before 2050. In addition, the industry commits to a consistent alignment with the latest scientific recommendations to meet the 1.5-degree target set in Paris 2015.

In the Glasgow Declaration, signatories commit to implementing five areas of action:

  1. All travel and tourism-related emissions should be measured and disclosed. Methodologies and measurement tools should align to UNFCCC guidelines and be transparent and accessible.
  2. Science-based decarbonization targets must be defined and consistently implemented. Reduction targets include all tourism segments, from transportation, infrastructure, accommodation, to activities, food & beverage and waste management. Offsetting may be complementary to real reductions.
  3. Ecosystems should be protected and restored. Communities at risk or already being affected by climate change should be supported in resilience building, climate adaptation and disaster response.
  4. Shared evidence of risks and solutions with all stakeholders should enable effective and coordinated implementation of plans.
  5. Resources and capacities should be made available to achieve the defined goals. This includes the financing of training and research to accelerate the transition.

To facilitate the implementation of the Glasgow Declaration, tour operator Intrepid Travel has published a practice guide on how to calculate climate emissions and develop reduction plans. It also describes how to account emissions in direct business operations, as well as in the supply chain, and why offsets are not credited in these reduction plans. Intrepid Travel is the world's first tour operator to have its 2020 climate targets scientifically verified and validated. With the guide, the company wants to motivate and enable other companies to also carry out evaluations and ambitiously implement the Glasgow Declaration.

The promises made in the Glasgow Declaration must now be followed by action. In the future, the sector will be measured against the promises made in their declaration. The tourism industry's Glasgow Declaration is a necessary first step to a climate-related transformation of tourism. However, it is noticeable that the aviation industry has not co-signed the declaration, although it is responsible for more than 50 percent, in long-distance tourism even for about 80 percent of the climate impacts of tourism.

À propos: It is undisputed that aviation urgently needs to do more for climate protection. However, the intentions of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (IACAC), an association of 24 countries - including Germany - are disputed. In their declaration presented at COP26, the signatory states refer primarily to the goals and measures of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The declaration focuses primarily on the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and the “Compensation and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation” (CORSIA), which will enable further growth in air traffic and is therefore criticized by scientists and civil society.

Also the IACAC pledges do not contribute sufficiently to the reduction of the climate effects of aviation, says Andrew Murphy, responsible for aviation at the "Transport and Environment" think tank in Brussels. The goal of the trade association of the world’s airlines to use more SAFs is implausible. IATA already committed to using ten percent SAFS by 2017. But, in 2021, their share was just 0.05 percent. "It will take years to ramp up SAF production and even longer to develop zero-emissions propulsion technology. Right now, flying less is the most effective way to reduce aviation emissions," Murphy said.

The tourism sector's Glasgow Declaration must become the industry standard as soon as possible and governments must finally agree on ambitious and real reduction targets for aviation in order to put travel on a path that is compatible with the 1,5 degrees Paris Agreement. The historic mistake of taking international mobility out of the UNFCCC process and handing it over to ICAO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has so far prevented tourism with all it´s mobility emissions from getting ready for the future. 2022 at COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh is the next chance to change this.   

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