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Report Shows Key Role of Tourism in Tackling Climate Change
10/ 10/ 2011

Report Shows Key Role of Tourism in Tackling Climate ChangeParis / Nairobi, 10 October 2011 - Greenhouse gas emissions from the global tourism industry are set to at least double in the next 25 years unless more low carbon, resource efficient policies are developed, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report, Climate Change and Tourism Policy in OECD Countries, recommends that stronger climate change mitigation policies and incentives be developed for the tourism sector. At the same time, it shows how ambitious mitigation pledges already in place mean the tourism industry can be a source of innovative solutions to climate change. The report also recommends that policy options on climate change mitigation need to reflect the wider context of the place of tourism in an individual country's economy.

Drawing on the results of a survey sent to OECD member countries and selected non-members, the study finds mitigation has received more attention than adaptation and that national emissions reduction strategies relating to tourism won't be enough to bring the sector into line with the international community's overall objective of reducing emissions by at least 50% by 2050.

Today, most energy for tourism is derived from fossil fuels, with the sector contributing an estimated 5 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions. Aviation currently accounts for 40 per cent of tourism's CO₂ emissions, car transport for 32 per cent and accommodation for 21 per cent.

Many governments and tourism organisations favour reducing the emissions from tourism in line with the reductions required of other sectors. Others, because of the structure of their economies, the importance of the tourism industry to national welfare, or their distance from large global markets, will seek to achieve net emissions reductions by combining tourism with other sectors.

"Policy-makers must find the responses that are most appropriate to their own circumstances", said Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch at UNEP's Paris-based Division of Technology, Industry and Economics." This report, which underlines the magnitude of the challenges we face, provides relevant and useful information to that end. There is much to be learned, too, from examples of good practice."

The report identifies how countries such as Austria, Germany, Ireland, and South Africa have shown that it is possible to identify current and future impacts and adaptation needs. It nevertheless concludes that the definition of adaptation goals and the implementation of policies are still in a developmental stage in virtually all countries. It also highlights key research gaps: How will heat stress in the Mediterranean affect tourism flows, for instance, or how sustainable is the development of snowmaking capacities as a measure to compensate for loss of natural snow?

"Reducing the climate impact of tourist travel, facilities and activities is essential both for the sustainable development of this expanding industry, in line with overall climate policy objectives, and for the future of many of the very attractions which tourists seek and enjoy," said Alain Dupeyras, head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) Tourism Unit at OECD.

The report identifies water availability and quality as key issues, which also depend on how effectively greenhouse gas emissions are limited over the coming decades. The number of people facing water scarcity could rise by more than two billion in a 2°C to 3°C average warming scenario by 2100. Many of the assets tourism uses, such as lakes, rivers, snow and fresh water, will be affected, as may the broader socio-economic stability upon which tourism depends.

Tourism is one of ten economic sectors covered in UNEP'S Green Economy Report, launched in February, which outlines how to boost economic growth while reducing environmental risks and improving human well-being and social equity.

In the run-up to the United Nations Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in June 2012, the UNEP/OECD study emphasises how government policy, industry initiatives and a wide range of green technologies can help tourism follow a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy path, which would reduce energy use, greenhouse emissions and water consumption.

The report highlights measures being taken in several countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism industry:

*Austria is in the process of developing a national adaptation strategy, which can be expected in 2011
*Research projects: Up to now 11 projects and studies focusing explicitly on the interrelationship between climate change and tourism have been conducted

*In 2007 the government adopted an ambitious energy and climate programme with 29 key elements, most of them relevant to tourism, particularly measures with regard to energy efficiency and renewable energy
*In September 2010, the government announced a three-tiered departure tax for aviation, with effect from 1 January 2011

*Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, presented a strategy in 2008 to deal with climate change, focusing on seven key measures
*Government incentives include investments in energy saving technology, and emissions-related Vehicle Registration Tax

South Africa
*An overarching framework for mitigation in sectors that contribute emissions of GHG is set to be finalised by the first quarter 2011
*Government incentives: Renewable Electricity Feed In Tariff (REFIT) was introduced in 2009; Vehicle Emission Tax to be implemented in September 2010

To view the UNEP/OECD report, Climate Change and Tourism Policy in OECD Countries, please visit: or

For more information, please contact:
UNEP Newsdesk on Tel. +254 207623088 or Email:

Further Resources
Download Report: Climate Change and Tourism Policy in OECD Countries