Tourism and the inescapable challenge of being sustainable

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Tourism and the inescapable challenge of being sustainable
Source: UNWTO
October 27, 2021

While recovering the ground lost due to the pandemic, the sector has the opportunity to rebuild its activity prioritizing care for the environment


Different reports agree that 2022 will be a year in which the recovery of the tourism industry at a global level will be accentuated, it is the great opportunity to rebuild innovative and environmentally friendly tourism. During the quarantines imposed by Covid-19, many destinations that used to be in high demand showed positive changes in their natural environments. This poses the challenge of achieving a balance taking into account that, without a healthy planet, there is no future for tourism.

This week a vital step has been taken in making significant progress towards this goal. UNWTO joined the Advanced Leadership Foundation and the Incyde Foundation of the Spanish Chambers of Commerce at the World Summit for the Future of Tourism (October 26-27, 2021). 

Highlighting the unprecedented relevance of tourism, the event features the participation of leaders from the business, political and international spheres. King Felipe VI of Spain is part as Honorary President, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Zurab Pololikashvili, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mauricio Claver-Carone , President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Juan Carlos Salazar, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Reyes Maroto, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Spain, Juan Verde, President of the Advanced Leadership Foundation and José Luis Bonet, President of the Chambers of Commerce of Spain. Along with them attend 10 ministers of tourism in person,

Collaboration, financing and innovation
This summit makes clear the importance of collaboration, as well as the vital role that tourism financing will play and harnessing the power of innovation in building more resilient and sustainable tourism.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: "This Summit makes clear the importance of collaboration, as well as the vital role that tourism financing and harnessing the power of innovation will play to build more resilient tourism and sustainable".

Joining Secretary-General Pololikashvili for a high-level debate on 'Financing the Future of Tourism', UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan stressed that “tourism needs investment and political support”. Ms Grynspan recognized UNWTO for its work in promoting accreditation and certifications since the beginning of the crisis, adding: "Tourism can be a very good energy and force to rebuild better, differently and together. ".

In a program that reflected the key priorities of UNWTO and global tourism in general, the first day focused on financing the future of tourism, in particular accelerating the shift towards zero net growth. With the arrival of world leaders in Glasgow for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) next week, discussions in Barcelona made clear the determination of tourism to embrace innovation and secure the necessary funding for the sector Live up to your climate action responsibilities.
The Summit will culminate with the Barcelona "Call to Action", a declaration of intent signed by governments, destinations and companies that outlines a shared vision for greener, more inclusive and resilient tourism, citing the potential contribution of the sector to the Goals of Sustainable Development and change it to net zero.

No time to lose
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has major negative repercussions for our daily lives and well-being. We must transform our entire lifestyle, according to a new UN report. If the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is maintained, the increase in temperature at the end of the century will far exceed the target of the Paris Agreement.
The abundance of greenhouse gases that retain heat in the atmosphere reached a new record figure during 2020 with an annual growth rate above the average that averaged between 2011 and 2020, according to the latest Organization Bulletin. World Weather Report (WMO) on greenhouse gases, which indicates that this trend continues during the current year.
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) in 2020 and is above 149% above pre-industrial levels.

“The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere surpassed the 400 ppm milestone in 2015. And just five years later, we exceeded 413 ppm. This is not a mere chemical formula and a few figures on a graph. It has major negative repercussions for our daily lives and well-being, for the state of our planet and for the future of our children and grandchildren, "said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas.

The Organization warns that, if not stopped emissions, the global temperature will continue to rise. Carbon dioxide is a gas that is characterized by its long duration and, therefore, the temperature level that we currently observe will persist for several decades, although emissions are reduced rapidly until reaching a level net zero.
If we add global warming to this situation, the end result that we will obtain will be the proliferation of extreme meteorological phenomena, such as episodes of intense heat, heavy rains, melting of ice masses, rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans, which will have far-reaching socio-economic impacts.
About half of the CO2 currently emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, while the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems absorb the other half.
The bulletin warns about the possibility that, in the future, the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems may lose their effectiveness as "sinks", decreasing their capacity to absorb CO2 and acting as regulators that prevent further increases in temperature.

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