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New sustainable tourism coalition created to accelerate drive to net zero

A new coalition aims to accelerate tourism’s transition to net zero, the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow has heard.

The Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC) is being backed by ministers from major tourism destinations and leaders from international organisations to achieve a sustainable travel and tourism industry.

The multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition has been established to lead, accelerate and track the tourism industry’s transition to net zero emissions, as well as drive action to protect nature and support communities.

Countries invited to be involved in a first phase are the UK, US, France, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Jamaica, Morocco, Spain and Saudi Arabia, where it will be based.

The development comes as the UNWTO gathers hundreds of private sector operators from across the world to commit to the Glasgow Declaration as part of Cop26 – at which Wednesday (November 10) will be ‘transport day’.

The Declaration aims to group the highly fragmented tourism sector behind a single goal of halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050 at the latest.

The STGC pledged to focus on at least nine areas of industry support, including developing standards and providing resources for the tourism sector, capability building, and project funding and investment.

It will be based in Riyadh and plans to open regional offices in other countries, with a strong multilingual online presence.

Other countries and organisations will be invited to join in phase two. In addition, a group of global experts in tourism and climate is being assembled to support the initiative.

The creation of the coalition comes against a backdrop of a highly fragmented tourism industry, with developing countries and small island states being most reliant on tourism for their economies.

More than 40 million tourism businesses – or 80% of the whole industry – are small or medium-sized.

“The STGC aims to support people and the planet by reforming tourism’s contribution to climate change, in a bid to protect the environment and support those who need it most,” a statement said.

Saudi Arabia tourism minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, and the fragility of communities dependent on tourism to external shocks.

“We must act now to make the industry and local communities far more resilient and to help solve the challenge of climate change.

“That requires engaging with business, governments and international organisations to accelerate action.”

World Travel & Tourism Council president and chief executive Julia Simpson added: “At a time where leadership is most needed to address the climate emergency, we commend Saudi Arabia’s initiative that will support the sector to achieve the global goals and ensure a sustainable future.

“WTTC is delighted to contribute to the Center through its unique data, research and expertise from businesses across the globe.”

The climate summit was described as being a “huge turning point” for the role of sustainability in tourism, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.

Almost half of respondents to a recent poll stated that the environment was the most important element of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors.

GlobalData travel and tourism analyst Ralph Hollister said: “This growing concern from the public is reflected by the United Nations, which expects parties to commit to new environmental targets at Cop26 and tourism is an established part of the agenda.

“Any public-private partnerships that are formed will decide on the success of environmental sustainability in tourism and need to be perceived as business relationships.

“To encourage the private sector, it needs to be made clear that both sides share the risks, rewards and responsibility for the sustainability initiatives that are agreed upon.”

He added: “The chances of more well thought out and pragmatic plans will increase as private sector companies have had – and will have – the time to reassess how they can operate in a more sustainable manner due to the downtime created by the pandemic.”

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