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COP26: The Tourism Industry Wants to be Part of the solution to dangerous climate change

Climate Change
A panel discussion on tourism as a solution for climate change

A team of winners on Climate Change formed today: Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Jamaica join forces and invite others at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference.

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  • Tourism was on the agenda today at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference  (COP26) in Glasgow, UK
  • Traveling from the World Travel Market London to Glasgow to participate in COP26 were the Hon. Minister of Tourism for Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett, the Hon Secretary of Tourism for Kenya Najib Balala, and His Excellency, the Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia Ahmed Aqeel AlKhateeb
  • The Saudi Minister set the tone for tourism to join forces on climate change in his remarks.

These three tourism leaders from Kenya, Jamaica, and Saudi Arabia today set the tone for the global travel and tourism world at COP26 in Glasgow.

Joining Forces to make Tourism Part of the Solution was the discussion moderated by the former president of Mexico Felipe Calderon.

Also on the panel was Rogier van den Berg, Global Director, World Resources Institute; Rose Mwebara, Director & Head of Climate Technology Center & Network, UNEP; Virginia Messina, SVP Advocacy, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC); Jeremy Oppenheim, Founder & Senior Partner, Systemic, Nicolas Svenningen, Manager for Global Climate Action, UNFCCC

HE Ahmed Aqeel AlKhateeb said in his remarks:

Distinguished guests, Ladies, and gentlemen.

Thank you for joining us here today to support the Sustainable Tourism Global Center.

Climate change is the most pressing issue facing humanity, which is why we are here in Glasgow.

After two difficult years for travel and tourism, travel is coming back.

And while this is good news for tourism businesses everywhere, we need to ensure that future growth is in balance with our planet.

Research published by Nature in 2018 found that tourism contributes 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC’s 2021 report is very clear.

We all need to take urgent and strong action, now, to limit the impact of climate change.

So, what can be done?

The Paris Agreement stresses the need to find solutions to climate change that are in balance with the need for economic growth and social development.

Tourism is undoubtedly a vital industry for the global economy.

More than 330 million people rely on it for their livelihood.

Pre-pandemic, one in every four new jobs created anywhere on the planet was in tourism.

The tourism industry, it goes without saying, wants to be a part of the solution to dangerous climate change.

But, until now, being part of the solution has been far easier said than done.

That’s because the tourism industry is deeply fragmented, complex and diverse.

It cuts across so many other sectors.

More than 40 million tourism businesses – or 80 percent of the whole industry – are small or medium-sized.

They are travel agents, restaurants, or small hotels.

They do not have the luxury of dedicated sustainability departments

or budgets for related research and development.

Much less do they have access to teams of highly paid management consultants who can advise them on ways in which they might cut their carbon footprint while maintaining their bottom line.

As a result, to date, the industry has – despite good intentions – not yet been able to play a full role in helping to solve the challenge of climate change.

Now, finally, that can change.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, HRH Mohammed bin Salman has announced the creation within the kingdom of the Sustainable Tourism Global Center.

The Center will bring together a multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition.

It will offer best-in-class guidance and expertise to the sector, in order to transform our collective approach to tackling sustainability.

The STGC is exciting because it will act as a meeting place for people from the tourism sector, governments, academia and international organizations.

A center where we will be able to learn from the best minds on sustainability and to share related knowledge and best practice, in order to accelerate our collective transition to a net-zero future.

And by doing so protect nature and support communities.

Critically, it will enable us to make these changes while at the same time providing jobs and driving growth by stimulating innovation and by delivering knowledge, tools, and financing mechanisms.

I look forward to discussing the Center with this esteemed panel, delving in how the STGC will help the tourism industry transition to net-zero emissions, and drive action to protect nature and support communities.

Thank you.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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