Maybe we need a COP22 Planet


November 11, 2016

The sessions on tourism and climate change in Morocco were inspiring.  We kicked our event off with an official statement from Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.  She definitively stated that tourism must be part of the global effort to manage carbon and prevent the rising of global temperatures over 2 degrees centigrade.

This formal acknowledgement of the tourism industry’s part in managing climate change gave me a moment of inspiration I hope to remember.  I took a very hearty deep breath.  In the past, the travel and tourism industry was not included in the Kyoto agreement.  The industry and its global impacts were also not discussed in Copenhagen or Paris.  This is the first meeting where travel and tourism has received full attention from global climate authorities.

Perhaps I should not be celebrating or feeling emotional.  After all this represents a challenge of the highest order.  Certainly it was acknowledged that our industry has not made enough progress in managing climate change to date.  Only a small proportion of the industry is measuring its impacts, and there is inadequate data on climate impacts in tourism destinations worldwide.  But the sessions were nonetheless encouraging.  There were quite a few new examples of innovation and constructive change presented.

I was interested in the company Michelin as an example of this.  Known for their tires, road maps and star ratings, Michelin is redesigning their entire business proposition. They seek to make transport carbon efficient and are looking at all their products as tools for offering sustainable mobility.  How heartening to see this example of taking an established product and making it responsive to the challenges of the future.

For destinations, the road is still long. My presentation on measuring climate impacts at the local level was the subject of many audience questions from the African delegates.  And its concepts were supported by my colleagues including UNWTO.  I was pleased to speak with Niclas Svenningsen, of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, afterwards about my idea of a “moonshot” where universities around the globe cooperate to measure tourism impacts at the local level.  He was pleased with the idea and said it was consistent with UNFCCC approaches. He felt it would be well received by countries around the world.