EWI Climate Summit Week Statement

COP 25 and UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report [1] on global CO2 emissions are highlighting the collective urgency of lowering the total GhG emissions on the planet to avoid increasingly perilous climate change impacts. The rapid growth of the tourism industry at 4% annually and its status at 10.4% of the global economy makes it an increasingly critical global industry to examine more thoroughly. [2] The IPCC, the global authority on climate science, uses the analysis performed by Lenzen et al [3] which has determined that tourism’s global carbon footprint has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e, a 400% increase from what was previously estimated by the UNWTO, or about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While aviation is 2.5 -3% of global CO2 emissions, global destination impacts are also growing rapidly, driven by local transportation, shopping, hotels and tourist requirements from local infrastructure. It is noted in the report that a more complete analysis of destination impacts is required to review the full life cycle of destination impacts “yet no database yet exists for this purpose.”

EplerWood International produced a report together with the Cornell Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise with support from the Travel Foundation, Destinations at Risk, the Invisible Burden, which identifies the unmeasured externalities of tourism growth at the destination level and specifically reviews what would be required to achieve holistic measures that could provide a baseline for decision making at the destination level. The International Sustainable Tourism Initiative (ISTI) developed a framework of indicators for sustainable tourism to help destinations measure tourism’s demand for resources and climate change-related impacts, as well as monitor efforts towards transitioning to a greener economy.

The indicator framework produced by the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health aims to provide local authorities with systematic data analysis, transferable worldwide, to measure the full cost of tourism growth at the destination level and help align measurements and policies in the tourism economic sector with international commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. The first pilot was realised in two destinations in Tunisia. The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) funded this first pilot during an 18-month project launched in July 2017 (read the results report here).

EplerWood International is leading the effort to develop a systematic database on the CO2 emissions of tourism destinations to measure the holistic, invisible impacts of tourism, in collaboration with our research partners, and by working with destinations and businesses worldwide.

[1] United Nations Environment Programme (2019), Emissions Gap Report 2019, UNEP, Nairobi

[2] World Tourism Organization (2018), UNWTO Tourism Highlights, UNWTO, Madrid, Spain

[3] Lenzen et al (2018), The Carbon Footprint of Global Tourism, Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0141-x

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