Decarbonisation of travel ‘will loom large in sector’s recovery’

The need to decarbonise in response to climate change and to operate more sustainably will loom large even as the sector seeks to recover from Covid-19.

Deloitte sustainability director Emily Cromwell highlighted the urgency in the latest Travel Weekly Insight Annual Report, saying: “We have until the end of this decade to halve emissions.”

The Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in November was “a key step in identifying policy mechanisms and galvanising business”, she said, but added: “We can’t stop at Glasgow. It has to be the beginning point.”

Cromwell noted the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published ahead of Cop26 “put the scope and urgency of the crisis in stark terms” and said: “Aspirational targets are what we need right now. If countries and businesses stick to conservative targets, we’re not going to have a planet able to support us.”

The implications for travel are dire. She argued: “Travel is intrinsically tied with places being as they are today. Even slight disruptions in the global ecosystem, let alone the major disruptions outlined in the report, could change the nature of places.”

Many travel and tourism organisations signed up to a ‘Glasgow Declaration’, committing to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. Cromwell said: “Businesses are going to have to shift the way they act and do it immediately to reach those targets. It’s going to need changed business models.”

Deloitte lead partner for travel and aviation Alistair Pritchard agreed, but highlighted a significant force behind the prioritisation of climate, saying: “There has been a shift in the expectations of financial markets [and] regulators. Companies are going to be required to report the impact they have on the environment.

He said: “Undoubtedly, there will be additional priorities as businesses look to recover. But this will be a top priority. Saying ‘We’re not going to worry about this for the next five years’ is not going to work because we don’t have five or 10 years.”

Cromwell insisted: “If companies don’t give this the weight it needs now, they will be outflanked by those who embed this in their recovery. We exist in a different world to 20 months ago.”

She acknowledged: “Small businesses don’t necessarily have the resources to help them through this, but they can look to industry associations. Arm yourself with as much information as you can. Just don’t put your head in the sand.”

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