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Roughly 10 per cent of global emissions come from tourism, new climate report says


A new report from international climate experts says that between eight and 10 per cent of global emissions come from the tourism industry, and that change is needed to bring them down in time for 2030 climate targets.

Published earlier this month by the Tourism Panel on Climate Change (TPCC), the Tourism and Climate Change Stocktake 2023 found that the industry is outpacing the global economy for growth, with high-income countries driving emissions both as destinations and as the home countries of travellers.

“At present, no country, no destination, and no sub-sector have achieved meaningful reductions in tourism greenhouse gas emissions,” the report says.

“In 2023, the world witnessed an extraordinary succession of broken climate records, causing widespread and profound impacts on ecosystems and society. This moment compels a proportionate response from the tourism community.” 

Among the report’s findings was that air travel has increasingly become the transportation of choice for many travellers, with 47 per cent of international tourists arriving by air in 2019, up from 34 per cent in 2000.

Total travel distance has also been on the rise, up an average of 3.9 per cent annually between 1995 and 2019, with the annual total of individual trips rising 2.8 per cent on average in that time.

The carbon footprint for tourism has grown in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says, citing a pair of analyses by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) that estimated emission totals of 4.1 and 5.4 gigatonnes in 2019, or between eight and 11 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions for that year.

A single gigatonne, or one trillion kilograms, is equivalent to the weight of “10,000 fully-loaded U.S. aircraft carriers,” according to NASA; enough to fill New York City’s Central Park with a block of ice four kilometres long, 800 metres wide and 341 metres high. 


It’s a trend that may miss the mark, the report says.

“Tourism is not on track to achieve the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism interim target of reducing emissions by 50 [per cent] by 2030,” it read. “Urgent whole-of-sector leadership is required for tourism emissions to peak and decline substantially by the end of the decade.”

The TPCC highlights the importance of integrating climate change and tourism policies around the world, with a focus on mitigating the emissions impact of travel and creating incentives for low-carbon tourism.

“In five years, the Tourism and Climate Change Stocktake 2028 must demonstrate progress,” the report concluded. “A sharp emission reduction trend, expanded adaptation and improved adaptive capacity, and a whole-of-sector roadmap to a just transition to climate resilient tourism.”

This month’s report is expected to be followed in the new year with the TPCC’s Science Assessment 2024; a detailed technical analysis and the first of its kind since 2007.

“TPCC has assembled over 60 global thought leaders … to provide tourism sector and relevant non-tourism policy and decision-makers with a clear view of the current state of knowledge relevant to climate change and tourism,” reads the panel’s website. Top Stories

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