Reopening, an unprecedented opportunity to protect the planet
The health crisis has made it clear that sustainability must stop being a simple trend. Today the tourism industry must take note and return to operating in balance with its environment
At a time when governments and the private sector are embarking on the road to recovery, it is the right time to continue moving towards a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable tourism model. Until the health crisis erupted, our industry was responsible for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The challenge today is to start operating again, seeking to reduce that number as much as possible.
Europe has been a pioneer in launching its aviation, but its authorities are already clear that sustainability is at stake. In fact, today IATA has just released a statement mentioning that the leaders of more than a dozen air transport associations representing the aviation sector in the old continent made an urgent appeal for the leaders of the EU prioritize specific decarbonisation initiatives in its allocation of future COVID-19 recovery funds.
European aviation continues to falter due to the sudden collapse of the air transport system in recent months and is among the worst affected sectors. But these challenges are compounded by the need to meet ambitious climate change goals in the future. Ensuring an accelerated deployment of existing decarbonisation solutions and adequate investments to drive new technologies will be key: investments that should be at the heart of the EU's COVID-19 recovery strategy. Meanwhile, existing financial instruments, such as loans, may also be available to provide urgent aid.
Europe's aviation sector is committed to contributing to the recovery of European economies in line with the objectives of the Green Agreement and for the benefit of all. Therefore, the sector calls on policy makers to include smart measures to support Europe's civil aviation sector during its recovery. This requires ensuring that aviation climate action is eligible for funding under the mechanisms provided by the next generation EU and the new multi-annual financial framework (MFF).
“Air transport is beginning to recover from the biggest crisis in its history. And we are determined to return better, safer and greener than ever. We are committed to eliminating carbon emissions and meeting our tough environmental commitments. The release of EU recovery funds COVID-19 offers an opportunity not to be missed. Strategic support from European governments for investment in sustainable fuels, new aircraft and a more efficient air traffic control network could ensure permanent emission reductions and accelerate the aviation path to sustainability. "
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Sustainable tourism should no longer be considered a special niche. Instead, this pause in global travel offers us the opportunity to rethink tourism and make the entire sector more sustainable as we grow better and stronger. This new initiative with IFC will provide valuable guidance on investments in sustainable tourism that enhance tourism contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. "
Currently, there are 200,000 hotels providing 18 million beds worldwide, with another 2.4 million rooms in the works. These only represent 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and therefore increasing the sustainability of this part of the global tourism sector can contribute significantly to the climate-related Sustainable Development Goals. This new initiative aims to promote this.
One of the main focuses will be to work with private sector partners to promote green finance and share experiences in acquiring resources for sustainable buildings. Initial cooperation will consist of a series of trainings to promote green investments for a long-term recovery of the tourism sector. The first training is slated to begin on June 4, 2020 in a webinar format, and will culminate in an accreditation training for EDGE experts.
The WTTC has also been working to enhance sustainability in tourism with the S0AR program, the objective is to recognize companies that are taking action and share the best practices in the industry through a Knowledge Center.
Gloria Guevara, President and CEO of WTTC, stated: "We have the power to drive real change and we are committed to this issue. Many of our members are already experts in sustainable business practice and WTTC has the opportunity to convene the industry. so that we can move faster, contribute to and address the significant environmental and sustainability challenges facing our world".