The emissions debate - UNWTO calls for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to effectively transform tourism for climate action

5 December, 2019

As The Blue Swan Daily reported earlier this week, the anti-flying movement has gained greater momentum in the past year. This comes almost as a surprise, but it should not have. This is a story that has been brewing for years. In particular, flight shaming, the practice of “shaming” individuals into not flying, will become more important in Europe.

The subject has been a key talking point at the CAPA World Aviation Outlook Summit taking place in Malta and where CAPA’s chairman emeritus, Peter Harbison, highlighted that airlines have, and remain, “fragmented in their responses”.

As Flight Shaming fast becomes important in Europe, he predicts increasing pressure on governments to impose emission taxes, pressure for short haul flights to be replaced by surface travel and ultimately a big impact on low fares and the LCC sector. “Airlines are highly visible and vulnerable to attack,” says Mr Harbison. “Although they are not a major emitter, they are soft targets and easily disrupted.”

As such, he warns, that “if the airlines don’t get their act together, governments will,” enforcing behavioural change. But, this is not just about airlines, but rather the entire aviation industry. “It is a challenge that is not going to go away,” says Mr Harbison. “Environmental issues will be the most important force affecting the airline industry in the 2020s.”

This week we have seen the release of a new report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Transport Forum (ITF) that predicts that transport-related emissions from tourism are expected to account for 5.3% of all man-made CO2 emissions by 2030, up from 5% in 2016.

At the same time, as tourist numbers rise and the sector makes progress in achieving low-carbon travel, emissions per passenger kilometre are expected to decline over the coming decade. Against this backdrop, UNWTO has called for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to effectively transform tourism for climate action.

Launched alongside the UN Climate Summit, COP25 in Madrid, the ‘Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector’ presents the emissions produced by the different modes of tourism transport. As the number of both international and domestic tourists continues to rise, this data is presented alongside the predicted growth in emissions to 2030 and is set against the so called ‘current ambition for the decarbonisation of transport.

The research forecasts that transport-related CO2 emissions from tourism are predicted to increase from 1,597 million tonnes to 1,998 million tonnes between 2016 and 2030, representing a +25% rise. During the same period, international and domestic arrivals are expected to increase from 20 billion to 37 billion, mainly driven by domestic tourism (from 18.8 billion to 35.6 billion), followed by international arrivals (1.2 billion to 1.8 billion).