World tourism receives first climate change stocktake

The first Tourism and Climate Change Stocktake 2023 report has been released by the Tourism Panel on Climate Change (TPCC), with 24 key findings aimed to help policy makers and the tourism industry make decisions about planning and investment toward climate resilient global tourism.

Tourism and Climate Change Stocktake Coordinating Editor Professor Susanne Becken.

Griffith University sustainable tourism expert and Coordinating Editor Professor Susanne Becken said the report is significant because it is the first of its kind to assess the progress and gaps in the state of tourism worldwide regarding the climate crisis.

“The TPCC is an independent science-based network of over 60 international leading tourism and climate experts, led by Griffith University and the University of Waterloo, and is a proactive sectoral approach which will feed into other global assessments such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” Professor Becken said.

“We’ve identified many signs of progress, good practice and innovation within the industry.

“Collectively, the key findings indicate the entire tourism sector needs to go further and faster to rapidly reduce tourism emissions and accelerate climate resilient tourism development.

“In many countries where tourism represents a high proportion of the economy, tourism is omitted from climate change frameworks which would be a critical step in the management of actions to mitigate tourism emissions.

“Tourism can play an important role in protecting destinations and mitigating emissions with effective governance, strategy, and planning.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • Air travel is a key driver of emissions being responsible for 75 per cent of tourist transport emissions
  • Eight to ten per cent of global emissions are from tourism with emissions concentrated mainly in high-income countries acting both as traveller residences and destinations
  • Rail is the lowest emissions form of transport in tourism even with current use of fossil fuels
  • The greenhouse gas emission intensity of hotel operations is gradually improving in some regional markets but without acceleration and expansion globally, will fall short of reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030
  • Consumer behaviour needs to shift away from the highest-emitting tourism activities, and is a necessary step to achieve GHG reduction targets
  • Global tourism emissions are heavily concentrated in a few high-income outbound markets and destinations
  • Heat Risk Exposure is anticipated to curtail tourism to vulnerable countries where tourism represents a large part of the economy
  • Current forms of tourism such as ski tourism at low elevations, beach tourism in highly erodible coastlines and desert destinations will not be viable because of compounding climate hazards and limited adaptation measures
  • There is limited evidence of behavioural change towards lower carbon tourism
  • Research and scientific capacity to inform evidence-based climate action in tourism has increased substantially but training in industry and tourism education programs remains very limited.

Coordinating authors from Griffith University include Professor James Higham, Dr Johanna Loehr and Dr Emma Wittlesea.

The TPCC is an independent science-based international collaboration that provides the first comprehensive framework on which to base assessment of the tourism sector’s progress on climate action.

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