The carbon footprint of tourism

Transport-related emissions from tourism are expected to increase to 5.3% of all man-made CO2 emissions in the next 10 years, according to a landmark report from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). However as tourist numbers rise and awareness grows about low-carbon travel, emissions per passenger kilometre are expected to decline.

Launched at a side-event during the UN Climate Summit, COP25, in Madrid this week, the report, Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector, outlines emissions produced by different modes of tourism transport.

“It is now for the tourism sector, especially tourism policymakers, to use data in this report effectively, and ensure the sector plays a leading role in addressing the climate emergency,” said UNWTO Executive Director Manuel Butler at the launch.

  • Ovais Sarmad, deputy executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), added: “While tourism is mentioned in many nationally determined contributions as a big concern, not enough has yet been done. Industry must do more, but governments must align their policies, so that at the international level we can collectively work to increase ambition.”
  • Some of the main conclusions of the research include: Against the current ambition scenario, transport-related CO2 emissions from tourism are predicted to increase from 1,597 million tonnes to 1,998 million tonnes between 2016 and 2030, a 25% rise.
  • During the same period, international and domestic arrivals are expected to grow from 20 billion to 37 billion, mainly driven by domestic tourism (from 18.8 billion to 35.6 billion), followed by international arrivals (1.2 billion to 1.8 billion).
  • Transport-related emissions from tourism represented 5% of all man-made emissions in 2016, and will increase to 5.3% by 2030.
  • Tourism-related transport emissions represented 22% of all transport emissions in 2016 and will account for 21% in 2030.

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