Cop26 declaration ‘gives travel sector clear green targets’

The time has come for the travel industry to take action on sustainability after clear targets for nations were set at the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow, according to a leading expert.

Emily Cromwell, sustainability director at Deloitte, told Travel Weekly’s Sustainability Summit the sector was well-placed to support destinations as part of a Just Transition Declaration agreed at Cop26.

This sets out the conditions for developing countries to move to a low-carbon future supported financially by more-affluent nations.

“This is the time for us to really focus on action and finding our way through this period that’s going to be very difficult and challenging,” she said.

“Commitments around financing, reduction of methane and moving away from coal may not on the face of it appear to be the most relevant for the travel industry.

“But there is a lot of emphasis on a just transition. Think about the destinations that are going to be impacted by climate change and are not going to be in a good position in terms of transition.

“As financing is moving away from fossil fuels…it’s a good time for the travel industry to think about how are you going to adapt and how are you going to support those destinations you frequent.

“Not everyone is going to be in a position to report on their sustainability programmes.”

Cromwell said listed travel corporates are going to be required to measure and report on their net zero emissions efforts and this required reviewing in destination supply chains.

She said understanding what larger organisations have to report would give companies of all sizes an idea of what was likely to come.

Cop26 also set biodiversity and deforestation targets, which Cromwell said was something that could “really benefit the sector” as it would make destinations more attractive places to visit.

“If you look at the impact of this commitment, if it’s executed properly as a symbol of restoring nature, this is an area that could really benefit this industry.

“This is a very exciting and direct nexus of a topic that is tremendously relevant to people who look to travel as a way of experiencing the best of the natural world.

“Something that really goes hand in hand with the fight against climate change, as we are successful…we will be success in preserving the natural world.”

Cromwell added: “We are in a race to net zero. It’s important companies understand what that means, set targets and have very actionable plans around decarbonisation. It’s important look at this through the lens of natural capital.

“There will be mandatory reporting around natural capital as there is around climate risk.

“In a post-Cop world you will struggle to find a company, a CEO, or a board of directors that does not understand the imperative around this topic. However, when you look at the opportunities for growth, to build resilience in the business, that’s not always the focus.

“I would encourage you to think beyond metrics, targets and reporting to look more broadly about what is an authentic sustainability mission and how can you use that to build resilience in your organisation for the long term so you can thrive in a highly regulated world where customers have higher expectations.

“Business leaders are not always looking at this as a strategic part of an organisation. It can still be viewed as a cost and I fully recognise it feels like a cost right now.

“But as businesses get a more nuanced understanding about the impacts the more empowered you will be to embed strategic thinking into your organisational strategies and to be able to view it as not just a cost but a driver of growth.”

Cromwell added the industry can make people care about sustainability and to challenge the objections that it’s too expensive. “You have the power to make them care and you can make sustainability affordable. It should not be a luxury, it should be standard.”

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