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Is tourism declaring a global climate emergency?

Climate protests worldwide are growing in frequency and support levels.

A groundswell movement advocating for the global tourism industry to declare a climate emergency has been launched, already securing declarations from some of the world’s biggest tourism operators including Intrepid Travel.

The campaign is labelled ‘Tourism Declares Climate Emergency’ and officially launched yesterday, urging tourism businesses of all sizes to add their weight to a global shift in thinking about carbon emissions and to draw on resources designed to help signatories to reduce their environmental footprint. Any company worldwide operating within the tourism industry can apply to join and to share their global environmental initiatives.

According to the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, the industry’s global carbon footprint climbed 40% between 2009 and 2013, with 8% of the world’s emissions directly linked to tourism operations.

Following on from many other industries which have collectively and independently declared climate emergencies within their own ranks, the tourism initiative bases its effort on three aims. These include encouraging each business to spread the message within their professional networks; developing a Climate Emergency Plan and to advocate and amplify the calls of existing signatories and continue the push for carbon-neutral tourism worldwide.

Hundreds of new green tourism operations have launched as the industry thinks greener.

Intrepid Travel CEO, James Thornton, told HM the company was a founding signatory to the initiative as it sought to have a leading role in addressing the climate crisis by driving cross-industry collaboration.

“The bushfires in Australia have fuelled our committed to taking immediate and radical action in our business. We believe that based on the facts we know today, it would be a breach of our duties as directors of the company and custodians of our stakeholders’ interests to ignore the climate crisis.

“We have been a carbon-neutral company since 2010 and have committed to being climate positive from 2020, but this new declaration takes our commitment a step further: it requires that the entire business design be rethought of in the context of a Climate Emergency which includes ongoing commitment to carbon neutrality and setting a science-based target in 2020. This declaration commits us to reshape the short, medium and long—term strategy and business model of Intrepid Travel”.

Adding to the growing number of tourism businesses to have signed up so far, a number of educational institutions specialising in tourism, travel and marketing have added their professional weight to the cause. These include Griffith Business School Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Susanne Becken and a number of other Professors of Tourism from leading UK universities.

Initially, the campaign is intended to run for 12 months but will, in that time, draw on the collective input of signatory companies around the world to develop a longer-term plan for 2021 to 2030.

Signatories are being encouraged to share their own climate plans and to be transparent on targets and their progress in reaching them.

“We believe that the complex nature of the tourism industry; its climate impacts (especially though aviation); and its potential for positive influence and transformative change, necessitate the creation of an industry-specific Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency initiative,” the website says.

“Our aims, structure and approaches are based on those of other similar campaigns that have declared a climate emergency for their industry sectors.”

For more information, head to www.tourismdeclares.com

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