Launched during the first week of COP26 in November 2021 and already attracting over 300 signatories, the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism is the travel industry’s boldest move yet towards measurable decarbonization and climate accountability. Louise Southerden reports.
This week, at COP26 in Glasgow, the travel industry made a giant leap towards meaningful climate action by launching the Glasgow Declaration: a Commitment to a Decade of Tourism Climate Action.
The Declaration itself is a one-page pledge that travel businesses of all kinds, anywhere in the world, can agree to by becoming a signatory. But the Glasgow Declaration isn’t just a pledge. Each signatory must deliver a “climate action plan” within 12 months and publicly report on its progress.
At the Declaration’s core is a recognition of the “increased urgency” of climate action in tourism, an industry responsible for an estimated 8 per cent of global emissions, spelled out in one highlighted paragraph:
“We declare our shared commitment to unite all stakeholders in transforming tourism to deliver effective climate action. We support the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. We will consistently align our actions with the latest scientific recommendations, so as to ensure our approach remains consistent with a rise of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.”
Climate action plans under the Glasgow Declaration need to include five components: measuring (disclosing all travel-related emissions), decarbonization (without relying on carbon offsets), regeneration (restoring and protecting ecosystems, etc), collaboration (sharing best practice with other travel stakeholders) and finance (ensuring they have the means to implement their plans).
Becoming a signatory is free and open to anyone who works in travel, in any kind of private or public organisation—from multinational travel corporations, national and regional tourism organizations, tour operators and attractions to accommodation providers of all types and sizes (even individuals working in travel as consultants, travel agents, writers and PRs).
“It’s a scaling up of ambition like we’ve never seen before, a landmark moment in our industry’s response to the climate emergency.”
– Jeremy Smith, Tourism Declares
It’s the first time the travel industry has made such a global commitment, but the Glasgow Declaration is based on a framework developed by a small UK-based not-for-profit called Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.
Launched in January 2020 by two Brits—sustainable tourism writer Jeremy Smith and Alex Narracott, founder of Much Better Adventures—Tourism Declares has spent the past two years encouraging travel businesses to declare a climate emergency and develop “climate action plans” to halve their emissions by 2030, in line with IPCC guidelines. Until COP26, almost 380 travel industry businesses had signed up to Tourism Declares.
The Glasgow Declaration represents a massive ramping up of the Tourism Declares model. It took six months for representatives from Tourism Declares, the Travel Foundation (a UK-based charity), VisitScotland, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) to fine-tune the wording, with input from more than 30 other tourism organizations (including Planeterra, Women in Travel, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, South Pacific Tourism Organization, Pacific Asia Travel Association and the International Union for Conservation of Nature among others).
Most importantly, signatories will now lodge their climate action plans at the One Planet Network website run by the UNEP and the UNWTO, which will monitor the travel industry’s progress until 2030. Meanwhile, Tourism Declares will become the Travel Foundation’s climate action program, scaling up its advocacy and supporting tourism organizations to deliver their climate plans.
“We’re already seeing countries and big household names [in travel] who haven’t joined Tourism Declares before, because we were a little unfunded operation or maybe they thought we were ‘too activist’, now committing to and signing Glasgow,” says Jeremy Smith of Tourism Declares. “It’s a scaling up of ambition like we’ve never seen before, a landmark moment in our industry’s response to the climate emergency.”
There are two big benefits for travelers, says Jeremy. It’ll make it easier for people to see which travel operators are “truly walking the talk” and it will improve the travel experiences we have. “The Declaration is not only focused on direct decarbonization,” he says, “but also on the role tourism can play in regenerating ecosystems and communities, which means more flourishing wildlife, cleaner environments, and societies with a better quality of life. And that makes for better holidays.”
Find out more about the Glasgow Declaration on the One Planet Network.
Louise Southerden is an award-winning Australian travel writer with a passion for simple, sustainable living and has had a productive pandemic: she built her own tiny house. Read all about it at www.noimpactgirl.com