Working together for sustainable tourism at the UN Climate Change Conference

Lucas Bobes

Head of Sustainability, Amadeus IT Group

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The recent International Symposium on Sustainable Tourism held in Marrakech within the framework of UN Climate Change COP22 was an impressive demonstration of how the fight against global warming has the power to summon a diverse group of international institutions. These included five different UN agencies, industry associations, private companies, NGOs, and academia. It’s difficult to imagine another topic other than tourism and climate change that has the capacity to gather so many diverse organisations.

international symposium on sustainable tourism


This extraordinary and broad presence of stakeholders is an indication of the immense challenge that climate change poses. Greenhouse gas emissions are present in so many activities related to tourism. However, the broad range and number of environmental initiatives presented shows that a tourism sectoral approach can be an agent of change at various levels.

“UNWTO research shows that currently almost half of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) acknowledge tourism either as a country priority, as part of their adaptation and mitigation strategies, or as a sector vulnerable to climate change, thus demonstrating the relevance of the tourism sector in advancing the climate agenda” said Dr. Dirk Glaesser.

Additionally, theInternational Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)presented a number of initiatives, including theCarbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which is particularly noteworthy. This scheme shows how industry specific and tailored agreements can target emissions reductions and at the same time accommodate the various interests and priorities of the many countries involved.

A common remark highlighted by several speakers at the event was the increasing awareness and involvement of travellers in the selection of and demand for sustainable tourism options. In order to facilitate involvement and commitment at various levels, Dr. Susanne Becken from Griffith University, highlighted need for standardisation and broad implementation of carbon reporting in the travel industry. This observation was echoed and praised by other speakers and panellists.


In this respect, much work needs to be done. Currently, less than 30% of tourism and leisure companies quantify greenhouse gas emissions and within the group that do report, there is still lack of a consistent approach.

Much needs to be done in both measuring and managing carbon emissions so that actual reductions are realised. Fortunately, it seems that the industry has evolved in recent years from a rather passive approach in which individual compliance was the main concern, to a state of common understanding that global warming demands a joint approach. Collaboration with customers and industry stakeholders to participate in common projects in which each party contributes its unique expertise and assets to commit to a sustainable and low-carbon tourism industry is, in my opinion, a very encouraging thought.

Download our report,Proving the Case: Carbon Reporting in Travel and Tourism, co-authored by the Griffith Institute for Tourism, to find out more about carbon reporting in travel and tourism industry.


Environmental Sustainability, United Nations, Industry Relations