UN Works to Make Tourism More Sustainable

20 January 2017 | Mitigation

The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The year kicked off at the International Tourism Fair in Spain (FITUR) on Wednesday, which was opened by the King and Queen of Spain, Don Felipe VI and Doña Letizia.

This year is an opportunity to look at how tourism is affected by climate change and how emissions from the sector can be curbed, along with finding ways for the industry to better adapt to the inevitable impacts of rising global average temperatures.

More than one billion international tourists meanwhile travel the world each year, which means that tourism provides millions of jobs and is crucial for national and local economies, not least in the developing world.

More than many other industries, tourism relies on a stable climate, and is already being impacted by increased incidents of storms and heatwaves, desertification, fresh water loss, rising sea levels that threaten coastal resorts, and diminished snowfall in alpine skiing areas.

The UN's World Tourism Organization estimates that tourism is responsible of about 5% of global CO2 emissions. Accommodation accounts for approximately 20% of emissions from tourism. This involves heating, air-conditioning and the maintenance of bars, restaurants and pools.

The transport sector, including air, car and rail, generates the largest proportion, with 75% of all emissions. Part of the emissions from transport can be avoided by choosing the most sustainable form of transport at least for inland travel, which is rail.

Tourist and business travelers, along with companies and organizations, can offset the carbon footprint of their trips by plane or car by purchasing UN-certified offsets provided through the UN's Climate Neutral Now Initiative.

Climate Neutral Now is also active in helping entire sub-sectors of the tourism transport industry, such as airports, measure, reduce and offset and their emissions.

International Tourism Fair in Madrid

The ongoing International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR, 18-22) has a focus on sustainable tourism and comprises a number of events organized by the World Tourism Organization.

More than 20 ministers of tourism from Africa are debating the opportunities that the sector can bring to the continent.

The potential of tourism in the MENA region (the Middle East and North Africa) and how to strengthen the climate resilience of tourism in the region are also being discussed at the fair by ministers.

Source: UNFCCC