UNWTO advocates a global approach on tourism, aviation and climate change


Tourism is estimated to be responsible for about 5 percent of global carbon emissions. Air passenger transport is the major, and a growing, contributor to global greenhouse gases (GHGs) generated by visitors, with an estimated 2 percent of tourism’s global emissions. As part of UNWTO’s ongoing work regarding climate change and tourism, UNWTO stresses the importance of a global approach on tourism, aviation, and climate change.

Fifty-one percent of the 880 million international tourists worldwide in 2009 arrived at their destinations by air. In many destinations, particularly those in small islands developing states, in Central and West Africa or in Central and South America, the proportion was much higher. Air transport is thus a key industry in tourism, a sector which generates in many countries a higher contribution of gross domestic product, jobs, and investment than most other economic activities; this is particularly the case in developing countries, where tourism is the principal service sector activity.

International air transport has been singled out for separate mitigation treatment, through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and 2010 will prove a pivotal year for aviation, with the next meeting of the UNFCCC (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year, preceded by the ICAO 37th Assembly starting next week.

Recognizing that the mitigation of GHG emissions from air passenger transport is critical to the sustainable development of tourism, UNWTO will present its Statement Regarding Mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Air Passenger Transport to the ICAO Assembly (September 28-October 8, Montreal, Canada). The statement underlines the critical role of aviation in tourism, especially in developing countries, outlining a number of principles that should be incorporated into ongoing work on the mitigation of GHG emissions from air transport.

UNWTO cautions against mitigation measures for air transport taken in isolation, without considering the broader tourism framework. It also calls for the application of the UNFCCC principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities among countries to alleviate negative impacts on tourism in developing countries, where the sector accounts for as much as 45 percent of the service export earnings. All revenues from levies and trading of emissions permits should also yield measurable, reportable, and verifiable mitigation results, including projects in transport and other tourism-related activities, and financial and other incentives for the earliest possible global introduction of sustainable additional or alternative fuels for air transport.

Tourism has an interest and a responsibility to reduce global emissions, advancing adaptation and mitigation strategies in all tourism industries from air transport to accommodation and other tourism activities. UNWTO has long been working, within the evolving United Nations framework, to develop a long-term post Kyoto response to climate change. The Davos Process on Tourism and Climate Change, initiated by UNWTO in 2007, includes firm recommendations and a clear commitment for action to respond to the climate change challenge, requiring the sector inter alia to “mitigate its GHG emission, derived especially from transport and accommodation activities”.

UNWTO will disseminate the statement among the international tourism community and at COP16, and will continue to engage with ICAO and other relevant organizations in seeking to address international aviation emissions at the global level.


Statement Regarding Mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Air Passenger Transport:

From Davos to Copenhagen and Beyond: Advancing Tourism’s Response to Climate Change:

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