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 released at the 22nd Global Summit in Riyadh by the World Travel & Tourism Council and the Saudi-based Sustainable Global Tourism Centre.
The comprehensive research covers 185 countries across all regions and will be updated each year with the latest figures.
During her opening remarks, Julia Simpson, President & CEO of WTTC announced the findings of the Environmental & Social Research (ESR). In one of the largest research projects of its kind ever undertaken, WTTC can for the first time ever, accurately report and track the impact industries within the sector have on the environment.
Previous estimates have suggested that the global travel and tourism sector was responsible for up to 11% of all emissions. However, WTTC’s pioneering research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totalled just 8.1% globally.
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.
These emissions have been falling consistently since 2010 as the result of technological developments, as well as the introduction of a number of energy efficiency measures across industries within the sector.
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 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 & Tourism related employment.
Simpson said of the findings: “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.”
WTTC’s boss continued: “Travel & Tourism is making huge strides to decarbonise, but Governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of Sustainable Aviation fuels with Government incentives. The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.”
And she added: “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.”