The travel and tourism industry is not making progress on reducing carbon pollution fast enough

This year’s debate on World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM was on whether the industry is doing enough to reduce its carbon pollution. Most of those who were there felt that it wasn’t – before and after the debate.
Watch the video of the debate on line

The industry speakers made a good case for industry beginning to address the issue and having plans to further reduce the carbon pollution they cause primarily through transport and heating and cooling buildings.  But we are running out of time.

PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) produces an annual Low Carbon Index; this year it makes grim reading. The watershed had been crossed. Avoiding a 2% rise in average global temperatures is no long conceivable, according to PwC. They are not an environmental campaigning organisation; do not lightly dismiss this as scaremongering.

Business as usual is no longer a sustainable business strategy – if ensuring that your business is profitable in the medium term matters to you and your shareholders you can no longer ignore climate change.

PwC estimates that in 2011 the “rate of improvement in carbon intensity was 0.8%. Even doubling our rate of decarbonisation, would still lead to emissions consistent with six degrees of warming. To give ourselves a more than 50% chance of avoiding two degrees will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation.”
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This does not seem likely – the problem is that decarbonisation needs to happen fast, it needs to happen now.  The travel and tourism industry and most other industries are not acting fast enough.

PwC  go on to warn that “one thing is clear: businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world – not just 2ºC, but 4ºC and, at our current rates, 6ºC.”

Delay is costly and it transfers the problem to the next generation – our children.

It reminds me of the famous post war question: What did you do in the war against climate change?

We are not doing enough; we shall leave the problem to our children.


1. Heathrow is making the case for a third runway. Hopefully Sir Howard Davies’s review will establish the facts.

• Heathrow argues that it does not have the slots to develop air routes to China and other emerging markets, maybe the ones it has should be reallocated? Maybe it should count Hong Kong as a Chinese city, it doesn’t.

• At present only 34.1% of passengers at Heathrow are using it as a hub and the expansion in flights by budget carriers is largely point-to-point.

• More Chinese visitors head to the continent than to London. Is that about air access or Britain being outside the Schengen visa zone?

•  Apparently there is a bilateral agreement which limits direct flights to 62 a week

Download One hub or none: The case for a single UK hub airport

It is to be hoped that Davies will be able to provide a balanced assessment to the options and for example determine what the future of aviation looks like – will there be more point-top-point flying or will hubs hold their own? I do not think that the evidence is clear.

2. The International Civil Aviation Organization managed to ensure that aviation was excluded from Kyoto – rather than looking to see what it could do to address carbon pollution it sought to be absolved of any responsibility and to avoid doing anything to address the issue. Finally on 15th November 2012 the Council of ICAO agreed

“to form a special High-level Group to provide near-term recommendations on a series of policy issues which have arisen in the course of ICAO’s ongoing research into the feasibility of a global market-based measure (MBM) scheme appropriate to international aviation, as well as its development of a policy Framework to guide the general application of any proposed MBM measures to international air transport activity.”

The report should be ready by October 2013 – not much sense of haste. I was in 2010 that the ICAO Assembly instructed the Council “to prepare and deliver both the MBM Framework and Feasibility Report for consideration by its next triennial Assembly in October 2013.” So it has taken two years just to agree to start work.
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3. The European Commission agreed on 12th November, no coincidence this, to postpone the planned extension of rules that require airlines to pay for their carbon pollution to include flights to and from non-EU destinations. “Stopping the clock” creates space for the political negotiations and demonstrates confidence on the side of the EU that together with international partners we will succeed in ICAO to agree on meaningful international action.”
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Since January 1st the EU Emissions Trading Scheme has applied to flights within the European Union plus The airlines have said that this will cost them 17.5bn euros ($22.3bn; £14.0bn) over eight years. But the EU has argued that it only adds between four and 24 euros to the price of a long-haul flight.
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We are shuffling forward far too slowly – exacerbating the problem we leave for our children and which many of those alive today will have to face by 2050, or sooner.

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