Davos opens climate change talks

The global challenge of climate change and
action by the tourism sector in both adaptation of destinations and mitigation of
its own impacts will be addressed at the Second International Conference on
Climate Change and Tourism in Davos, Switzerland this week.The meeting is
organized by UNWTO together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and supported by the World Economic
Forum (WEF) and the Swiss Government.
The increasingly important travel and tourism sector - totalling 846 million
international arrivals and some 4 billion domestic trips in 2006- is both a
contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and at the same time highly
vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a new report to be
released later this year by UNWTO, UNEP and the WMO.
An Advance Summary of the Report entitled “Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to
Global Challenges”, attempts to quantify the links between tourism and climate
change. Among the key conclusions of this study are:

- Carbon dioxide emissions from the sector’s transport, accommodation and other
tourism activities are estimated to account for between 4 and 6% of total emissions.
- If no mitigation measures are taken, tourism contribution to CO2 emissions could
grow by 150% in the next 30 years, based on UNWTO tourism market forecasts.
- Impacts of climate change on the tourism sector will steadily intensify,
particularly under higher global GHG emission scenarios.
- Changing climate patterns might alter major tourism flows where climate is of
paramount importance, such as Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
- Coastal, mountain and nature-based destinations in least developed countries and
small island developing states might be particularly affected.
The tourism sector needs to strategically focus on both, adaptation measures in
affected tourism destinations in order to safeguard economic returns and jobs, and
mitigation measures of specific forms of tourism in order to achieve substantial
emission reductions. New technology and financial mechanisms will also be pivotal.
UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli says that “Climate change is real, its
effects are proven and the Tourism sector has to play its part in contributing to
the solution of the challenges it poses. Within our commitment to the Millennium
Development Goals and as the lead Tourism organization in the UN family, we want to
ensure the coherence between action on poverty reduction and climate change. Tourism
is an important player in both, as it represents the main economic driving force for
several developing states.”
According to UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner,
“The tourism industry is both challenged by climate change and a contributor to
greenhouse gas emissions as reflected in the latest UNWTO report. Last week at the
United Nations in New York, world leader after world leader pledged political will
at the highest level to realize a post 2012 emissions reduction agreement. Meanwhile
many corporations pledged emission reduction cuts of up to 50 per cent by 2020.
Others have plans in place to go further, even to carbon neutrality. This is the
kind of leadership and innovation needed across all sectors including the tourism
industry-leadership that supports governments and may help ensure that the wonderful
and extraordinary travel destinations that sustain the industry today will be there
for us to enjoy tomorrow.”
What is clear is that travel to and from the poorest countries that rely on tourism
as their primary export is only a small proportion of total trips. UNWTO stresses
that one of its primary goals is to ensure that the necessary solutions to this
global challenge are coherent with the equally important global fight against
poverty, where tourism is such an important contributor.
The report includes a synthesis of current and future likely impacts of climate
change on tourism destinations around the world, possible implications for tourist
demand, current levels and trends in greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism
sector, and an overview of policy and business management responses to climate
The results of the Conference will be considered at a UNWTO Ministerial Summit in
London on 13 November, with the support of the World Travel Market and the UK
Government, and factored as appropriate into the overall UN Strategy for Climate
Change Response to be discussed in Bali later in December.