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UN Urges Travel Sector to Sign Climate Action Commitment at COP26

With the climate change crisis rapidly approaching a point at which it becomes irreversible, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is working to coordinate and accelerate the climate action efforts of the travel industry’s major players.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is being hosted by the Scottish city of Glasgow in the United Kingdom from October 31–November 12, 2021; and, the UNFCCC is asking global travel and tourism sector leaders—everyone from airlines to tour operators—to sign and commit to the ‘Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism’ when it officially launches next week at the COP26 summit.


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The aim of the Glasgow Declaration is to support the UN in achieving its previously stated goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2030 and achieving ‘Net Zero’ before 2050. By committing to halving carbon emissions by the end of this decade, the travel industry would be uniformly aligning itself with the broader ‘Race to Zero’ campaign across the whole global economy.

Akin to the UNFCCC’s 2015 Paris Agreement, the declaration follows the formation of the industry-specific ‘Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency’ initiative, which has been joined by hundreds of organizations from various parts of the sector since it was founded in 2020. Fittingly, VisitScotland was the first national tourism organization to declare a climate emergency, according to

Even with a large portion of the world’s activity suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, atmospheric C02 concentration reached 149 percent of pre-industrial levels. Greenhouse gases produced by the tourism sector alone increased by at least 60 percent between 2005 and 2016, and the industry was found to have generated five percent of all global emissions in 2016. The latest research released by the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) and the International Transport Forum (ITF) also discovered that tourism-generated C02 emissions are set to increase by 25 percent by 2030, unless significant positive climate action is widely and immediately taken.

The Glasgow Declaration outlines five shared pathways for signatories to follow:

Measure – Measure and report all tourism-related emissions with transparency using UNFCCC-approved tools and methodologies.

Decarbonize – Set and deliver targets to accelerate decarbonization in all areas of operation, with carbon offsetting playing only a subsidiary role.

Regenerate – Restore and protect ecosystems, and safeguard biodiversity, food security and water supply.

Collaborate – Share risks and solutions to ensure that collective plans are as effective and coordinated as possible.

Finance – Ensure organizational resources and capacity are sufficient to meet the shared climate plan objectives.

All parties who sign the declaration commit to delivering a concrete climate action plan (or an updated plan) within 12 months of signing and swiftly implementing changes.

“A just transition to Net Zero before 2050 will only be possible if tourism’s recovery accelerates the adoption of sustainable consumption and production, and redefines our future success to consider not only economic value but rather the regeneration of ecosystems, biodiversity and communities,” the declaration states.

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, said: “No one organization can tackle this alone. That’s why we need to work urgently together within a consistent sector-wide approach to accelerate change and therefore I encourage tourism stakeholders to subscribe to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.”

“As outlined in the One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of Tourism from COVID-19, committing to and planning for a green recovery offers us a unique opportunity to transform the sector in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” the declaration reads. “If we can move rapidly away from carbon- and material-intensive ways of delivering visitor experiences, instead prioritizing community and ecosystem wellbeing, then tourism can be a leader in transforming to a low-carbon future.”

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