The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled ground-breaking new data detailing the climate footprint of the global travel and tourism sector. The findings were launched on 29 November at the global tourism body’s 22nd Global Summit, in Riyadh, by WTTC and the Saudi-based Sustainable Global Tourism Center.
In one of the largest and most comprehensive research projects of its kind ever undertaken, covering 185 countries across all regions, WTTC can, for the first time ever, accurately report and track the impact industries within the sector have on the environment. The data will be updated each year with the latest figures.
Travel & Tourism is making huge strides to decarbonise, but Governments must set the framework.Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO
“Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Travel & Tourism is making huge strides to decarbonise, but Governments must set the framework”, said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO.
Previous estimates have suggested that the global travel and tourism sector was responsible for up to 11% of global emissions, however, WTTC’s pioneering research shows that, in 2019, the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totalled just 8.1% globally. “8.1% is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. From today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all”, commented Simpson.
“Saudi Arabia recognizes that travellers and investors want policies that promote sustainability in the industry and we have embarked on a journey that will make the Kingdom a pioneer in sustainable tourism. Under the Saudi Green Initiative, we launched more than 60 initiatives in the past year to do just that. The first wave of initiatives represent more than $186 billion of investment in the green economy”, added Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, HE Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
The divergence of the sector’s economic growth from its climate footprint between 2010 and 2019 is evidence that travel and tourism’s economic growth is decoupling from its greenhouse gas emissions.
Between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s GDP has grown on average 4.3% annually whilst its environmental footprint has only increased by 2.4%. The constantly falling emissions are the result of technological developments, as well as the introduction of a number of energy efficiency measures across industries within the sector.
The broader Environmental & Social Research (ESR) will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of travel and tourism related employment.
WTTC will continue to announce new data on how the sector fares against these indicators throughout 2023. This way, governments around the world now have a tool to inform their decision-making and accelerate environmental change more accurately.