The UNWTO is to work with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to drive sustainable and inclusive tourism.
The agreement was announced as a report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change recommended scrapping air miles schemes, claiming that they encouraged excessive flying.
At the UNWTO, the two institutions said that they would strengthen tourism governance and promote policy dialogue at national and regional level on matters of common concern, facilitate investments and advocate for the increase of official development aid flows to the tourism sector, including through UNWTO.
Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of UNWTO, said: “Strengthening our partnership with the EBRD will help us drive the sector forward, deliver change in the tourism climate and digital economy and help guide the growth of tourism in a responsible and inclusive manner.”
Suma Chakrabarti, president of the EBRD, added: “Travel and tourism represent a vitally important and fast-growing sector of the global economy, and can benefit poorer, more remote regions, opening up job opportunities, promoting economic inclusion for all and facilitating the transfer of valuable skills. These are all objectives central to the EBRD’s mission.”
The EBRD and UNWTO are longstanding partners. In 2015, the two institutions signed an agreement in the framework of the EBRD’s commitment for supporting inclusive and sustainable tourism in the economies where the Bank invests, particularly in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region and the Western Balkans.
Earlier this year the UNWTO and the United Nations Environment organisation made an assessment of sustainability in government tourism strategies. The report said that all the tourism policies analysed referred to sustainability as part of their objectives or vision and 55% addressed sustainability as a cross cutting element.
At the same time, 67% of tourism policies included references to resource efficiency and 64% connected sustainability with the competitiveness of the sector. Tourism policy makers were aware of the importance of sustainable consumption and production but the references to policy instruments aimed at sustainable consumption and production implementation were described as “limited” and so was the evidence available for other aspects beyond the economic performance of the sector.
An independent report for the UK Committee on Climate Change by Dr Richard Carmichael, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, suggested that, to tackle growing demand in aviation, there should be levies for frequent fliers and the banning of air miles programmes that incentivise flying.
The study said that 15% of people in the UK were responsible for 70% of flights, so those schemes could discourage additional flying by those who fly most often without increasing the cost of a ticket for the majority of households taking an annual holiday.
The report added that business travel accounted for approximately 19% of flights and had declined as a proportion of flights, mostly due to growth in flights for leisure. A separate scheme to the Air Miles Levy would also be needed for business travel in order to avoid loopholes or gaming the system. Also, over a third of business passengers travelled first or business class, compared with only one in 17 leisure and these classes of tickets were associated with much higher emissions due to the larger space taken up onboard and more unfilled seats.
A solution was suggested. “Tele-conferencing and telepresence technologies offer an alternative to some work-related travelling and measures to promote these alternative ways of working and doing business could deliver economic savings and benefits for well-being as well as emissions reductions. For institutions with employees flying frequently, match-funded financial support could be provided for the installation of video-conferencing/tele-presence suites.”
The study also suggested that awareness could be raised and more responsible flying encouraged by mandating that all marketing of flights show emissions information expressed in terms that were meaningful to consumers.
Carmichael said: “The science and the targets for Net Zero are clear and many people are willing to do their bit but the challenge ahead is huge and time is limited. Policies are needed now to make low-carbon choices more accessible, affordable, attractive and fair for households.
“These changes are unlikely to happen quickly enough if the government does not remove obstacles currently frustrating the behavioural and societal shifts needed.”
HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: Anyone who thinks that the byzantine rules around frequent flyer programmes were an incentive to travel more would be well advised to spend a few days in a frequent fliers’ shoes. Likewise the hours spent in soulless airports, queueing for delayed flights then breathing recycled air. The issue here is not that travellers have a scorching appetite for it, but that they must do it. Deals do not get done with teleconferences, as business found out in the aftermath of 9/11. Flight shaming was thought to have had some impact on Thomas Cook, but it remains localised and focused on leisure.
So it is not a matter of limiting travel, but a matter of dealing with the damage that it causes. This correspondent, a frequent flier, was perplexed by the lack of carbon offsetting options out there to assuage guilt, but last week BA owner IAG stepped forward and said that it would offset all domestic flight emissions from next year and would commit to net-zero carbon flying by 2050.
A bold PR move by BA and one which is bound to be copied by others. In the meantime, as Extinction Rebellion like to point out, it’s not about personal change, but change by the state. The issues here can only be dealt with by improving technology. Greener aeroplanes, not fewer. With time pressing, it’s unlikely that the market will work this out quickly enough and investment will be required. Just as soon as Brexit is done.
Additional comment [by Andrew Sangster]: Travel is becoming an increasing target for climate change activists. Even some of the most efficient methods of transport, like London’s tube system, have even suffered protests (although a protest last week in London was somewhat amusingly ended by enraged commuters).
A report by Morgan Stanley on Flygskam, the Swedish phenomenon of flight shaming that is spreading across Europe, warned that climate change was now an increasingly important topic for investors. It suggested that consensus was building around the Taskforce on climate-related Financial Disclosure, a body chaired by Michael Bloomberg. It was established by the Financial Stability Board, an international body chaired by Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
The clear message is that companies need to start taking the issue even more seriously. The big hotel chains, which source most revenue from corporates, are exposed. Resort properties, where located in hard to reach by rail locations, have probably more resilience unless the lobbying efforts become so effective as to deter holidaymakers.