Tourism and events deliver zero carbon pathway as COP26 emissions balloon

The global events and tourism sectors have delivered their pathways towards zero carbon at UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow.

The events sector saw 109 businesses from around the world commit to the “Net Zero Carbon Events” pledge to achieve achieve net zero by 2050, which includes measuring emissions and reporting on their progress at least every two years.

The pledge was developed through a broad industry collaboration hosted by the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), with the guidance and support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“The events industry is on its way to a net zero future, and this pledge represents a call for accountability, responsibility, and action for all organisations in the sector,” JMIC said in a statement.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has also launched its Net Zero Roadmap, to guide the global travel and tourism sector on their journey towards net zero.

The roadmap sets out the challenges ahead and how the travel and tourism sector, which is responsible for an estimated 8-10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, can decarbonise and reach net zero by 2050.

“I am delighted to announce our pioneering Net Zero Roadmap for travel and tourism,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC’s president and CEO.

“It helps travel industries reach individual targets to reduce our carbon footprint.

“Many destinations are affected by the impacts of climate change with rising sea levels, deforestation and the loss of animal and plant species. Communities that rely on tourism are first in line to see the impact and wanting to do something about it.

“We have a responsibility towards our people and planet. Our sector can be part of the change that is urgently required to mitigate impacts and adapt to the threats posed by climate change.”

The detailed roadmap has identified five key areas within the broader tourism and travel industries – accommodation, tour operators, aviation, cruise, and tourism intermediaries such as online travel agents and metasearch engines – and acknowledged that different industries face different challenges to decarbonise.

The roadmap is also calling for the same level of support for the travel and tourism sectors as offered to other sectors in addressing climate challenges and achieving a net zero future.

However, the challenges of reducing carbon emissions were amplified by COP26 itself, which has been shown to have doubled it carbon footprint when compared with the previous UN Climate Summit held in Madrid in 2019.

The Glasgow Summit is forecast to produce 102,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, twice that of the Madrid Summit.

Of the total emissions, about 60 per cent is believed to be the result of international travel, with around 39,000 official delegates flying to Scotland for the talks.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first trip to the Summit was by private jet but he opted to travel by train for his second trip after being called out for hypocrisy.

“The failure to reach any meaningful agreement about limiting aviation’s vast carbon emissions, at a conference where 60 per cent of their emissions came from aviation, with a backing chorus of media outrage at the private-jet hypocrisy of the elites, really highlights the lack of equity in these talks,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr.

“Creating loopholes for the use of the rich not only maintains their disproportionately high emissions but makes it so much harder to persuade anyone else to cut.”