Tourism leaders joined United Nations officials and Government ministers demanding the travel industry wakes up to global warming.

United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general Francesco Frangialli issued his strongest warning yet of the threat to the industry. “A rise in global temperatures beyond 2C will threaten the existence of our industry.”

A 2C rise this century is now the minimum forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on ­Climate Change even with a 60% cut in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Speaking at the Ministers’ Summit on Tourism and Climate Change, broadcast live at WTM, Frangialli said: “Our industry must refuse to take the easy way out. We cannot delay and should not try to sidestep the issue by saying our contribution is relatively small.”

Frangialli hit out at airlines hostile to the principle of emissions trading and opposed to European plans to include aviation in a trading scheme from 2011. He warned the industry will have to make sacrifices.

“Tourism must make bigger changes than other sectors because we have to reduce emissions when the number of travellers is doubling,” he said. “We have a right to say to governments, ‘Do not target tourism unfairly’.”

WTM delegates endorsed the declaration issued by the second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in October. It calls for the development of “truly sustainable tourism” and demands the sector responds to climate change by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the changing climate and improving energy efficiency.

Frangialli added: “It is in our interests to ensure it is possible to ski in the Alps at the end of this century, to dive at the Great Barrier Reef or experience the wildlife of Africa. To consumers, we say give priority to sustainable tourism and avoid wasteful choices.”