The global tourism industry has a key role to play in confronting the challenges of climate change, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said as an international seminar on the subject wrapped up in the United Kingdom today.

“Indeed, there is now a clear understanding that the industry can be part of the solution to climate change, by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions as well as by helping the communities where tourism represents a major economic source to prepare for and adapt to the changing climate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The number of international tourists continues to climb, with 898 million arrivals registered last year and further increases expected as traditionally poor countries emerge as more popular tourist destinations, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The Oxford seminar brought together some 30 high-level tourism and environment officials to examine, among other things, practical ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the tourism sector. The effects of climate change have already been felt in the tourism sector, particularly in certain destinations such as mountain regions and coastal hotspots. At the same ?time, the tourism industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, especially through the transport of tourists.

“With its close connections to the environment and climate itself, tourism is considered to be a vulnerable and highly climate-sensitive economic sector, similar to agriculture, insurance, energy, and transportation,” said Dr. Murray Simpson, a Senior Research Associate at Oxford’s University Centre for the Environment and scientific coordinator of the seminar. At the same time, he noted that in 2005 tourism’s contribution to CO2 emissions – including from transport, accommodation and activities – was estimated to be approximately 5 per cent.

“Measured as warming effect these emissions could represent up to 14 per cent of global warming effect,” he said. The seminar was organised and coordinated by UNEP and Oxford University’s Centre for the Environment jointly with the UNWTO and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


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