New tourism coalition brings together world leaders at COP26

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New tourism coalition brings together world leaders at COP26
November 05, 2021

The new Global Center for Sustainable Tourism (STGC) seeks to accelerate the transition to zero greenhouse gas emissions

In the framework of COP26, Ministers of the main tourist destinations and leaders of international organizations expressed their support to achieve a sustainable travel and tourism industry, through the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism (STGC),

A new coalition will accelerate the transition from tourism to zero greenhouse gas emissions, COP26 hearings heard today.

The STGC is a multinational, multi-stakeholder coalition established to lead, accelerate and track the tourism industry's transition to net zero emissions, as well as to drive action to protect nature and support communities.

The tourism industry is highly fragmented, with developing countries and island developing countries (SIDS) being the most dependent on tourism for their economies. More than 40 million tourism businesses, or 80 percent of the entire industry, are small or medium-sized. The STGC aims to support people and the planet by reforming the contribution of tourism to climate change, in an attempt to protect the environment and support those who need it most.

In a special session on the future of the STGC at COP26, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, was accompanied by the former President of Mexico and President of New Climate Economy and the World Resources Institute, Felipe Calderón; David Livingston, Senior Advisor, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, among other leaders.

The Center's strategy will be designed by a coalition of governments, international organizations, academic, multilateral and financial institutions and industry associations.

The countries invited to be part of this coalition in the initial phase are the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Jamaica, Morocco, Spain and Saudi Arabia. These countries have prioritized the climate, tourism and SMEs, which will allow synergies for this important initiative.

The main organizations that will help shape the center and provide the services in the first phase are WRI (World Resources Institute), UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), UNEP (United Nations Program for Climate Change). Environment), ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council), World Bank and SYSTEMIQ. In addition to Harvard University, which will support the STGC through research and capacity building, while the UNFCCC will guide the Center to accelerate industry action on climate neutrality.

The Center will deliver services and products through three basic pillars, including knowledge creation and sharing, measurement and monitoring, and industry enablement. Through these pillars, the STGC will focus on at least nine areas of support to the industry, including standards development and provision of resources for the tourism sector, capacity building, and project financing and investment.

In addition, it will be based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and plans to open regional offices in other countries, with a strong multilingual online presence.

Other countries and organizations will be invited to join the second phase. In addition, a group of world experts on terrorism and climate is meeting to support this important effort.

Ahmed Al Khateeb, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Tourism, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, and the fragility of communities that depend on tourism to external shocks. We must act now to make industry and local communities much more resilient and to help solve the challenge of climate change. That requires engaging with businesses, governments and international organizations to accelerate action. Saudi Arabia is committed to helping this critical effort". 

Felipe Calderón, Former President of Mexico and President of the World Resources Institute, said: "We share this initiative with world leaders who joined our mission to make tourism a lever to achieve the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. There is a window of opportunity for businesses and governments to come together to advance these critical goals, and the STGC will serve as a 'north star' to achieve this mission". 

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's Minister of Tourism, said: "The Government of Jamaica, as a small island developing state and vulnerable economy, remains committed to building resilience for sustainable development, including through sustainable tourism. In this regard, Jamaica welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism to contribute to and benefit from this collaborative effort to ensure a better planet for future generations". 

Janet Rogan. United Kingdom COP Regional Ambassador for the Middle East and Africa, said: "We are proud to host COP26. Humanity has timed out the clock on climate change. It is time to act. Tourism is a key sector supporting employment. and growth and we are pleased to be part of this important new initiative to accelerate the sector's transition to net zero emissions".

Fatim-Zahra Ammor, Morocco's Minister of Tourism, Handicrafts and Social Economy, said: "Under the guidance of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God bless him, the Kingdom of Morocco made sustainability one of the main pillars of its old sectoral strategies, as well as its new development model. During the last two years, the entire world has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and tourism is one of the most affected sectors. It is crucial to unite our efforts to build and co-design a sustainable recovery plan related to travel and tourism activities. The Global Center for Sustainable Tourism is an important step towards this goal". 

Najib Balala, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, said: "As one of the most popular destinations in Africa for international visitors, Kenya has felt the full impact of the global tourism recession as a result of the pandemic. We therefore agree that there is an urgent need for a new sustainable approach to global tourism. Along with our recently launched Wildlife Strategy 2030, which will ensure a prosperous natural ecosystem under the pressure of climate change, we are strong supporters of the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism".

María Reyes Maroto, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Spain said: "COP26 provides an ideal setting to confirm our commitment to help tourism contribute to the global challenge of climate change. As a world leader in tourism, Spain is promoting initiatives in sustainable tourism with the aim of preserving the natural environment, improving energy efficiency in the sector and adopting the principles of the circular economy. This will accelerate the contribution of tourism to the ecological transition outlined by the European Green Deal. Spain is an active member of international initiatives such as Planet's Sustainable Tourism Program, and will continue to be an active partner working globally with other countries, particularly developing countries,as well as with international institutions and business representatives".

Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: "At a time when leadership is most needed to address the climate emergency, we commend Saudi Arabia's initiative that will support the sector to achieve global goals and ensure a sustainable future. WTTC is pleased to contribute to the Center through its unique data, research and experience from companies around the world". 

John WH Denton AO, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, said: "I applaud the multinational and multi-stakeholder effort to accelerate sustainability within the global tourism sector. Given the impacts of COVID-19 on the strength of the sector, the Partnerships will be vital to ensure that small tour operators can better rebuild and become a powerful force for local communities and our planet". 
"The International Chamber of Commerce, as the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in more than 100 countries and as the official focal point of the UNFCCC for business and industry, hopes to support the development of the Hub in the coming months and connect its work with our global business network, particularly the millions of small businesses in the tourism industry". 

Gloria Guevara, Senior Special Advisor to Su Altmente Ahmed Al Khateeb, said: "The tourism sector has been through a lot throughout this pandemic and combined with the urgency of a response to climate change, it needs a global solution. SMEs in our sector, such as a travel agency or a tour operator, do not know their carbon footprint and how to contribute to the race to zero. Every time we go on vacation, we create jobs and reduce poverty, it would be great if we got to a point where the longer we go on vacation, the better it is for the planet. The multinational, multi-stakeholder coalition will bring together fragmented tourism stakeholders and provide knowledge to drive action now". 

Dr. Ramón Sánchez, Principal Investigator, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard University, said: "To create a truly sustainable global tourism industry, all stakeholders in the community, business and government require the tools, frameworks and best practices needed to help achieve this goal. The Harvard team is excited to collaborate with the STGC on research that will play a critical role in building the foundation and driving the industry toward net zero". 

Jeremy Oppenheim, founder of SYSTEMIQ, a global investment and advisory firm that specializes in sectoral transformations aligned with the Paris Agreement and supports the STGC, said: "The STGC aims to bring together the many sectors related to tourism (aviation , hospitality, transportation and catering services) into a world-class, multi-stakeholder coalition that can help transform the industry, especially SMEs, from one that generates 8% of global greenhouse emissions to one that is a driver of a regenerative world of zero net emissions". 

Niclas Svenningsen, Global Climate Action Manager - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change "Tourism is one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change and one of the sectors that has the most to contribute to the 2030 sustainable development agenda. Climate action offers a win-win opportunity to restore economies, communities and countries in a sustainable and climate-friendly way". 


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