Climate change is one of the greatest challenges for policy makers at every level, from global and international to national, regional and local. The tourism industry cannot ignore this challenge. Policy makers and the tourism industry must develop a range of strategies to adapt to the different ways in which climate change may affect tourism operations and opportunities.
Abbreviations and acronyms
The OECD works closely with governments to help them identify and implement least-cost policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in order to limit climate change. It also works with governments on integrating adaptation to climate change into all relevant sectors and policy areas. Similarly, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognises the need to raise awareness within the tourism industry and among consumers on the topic of climate change, to facilitate adaptation to its existing and expected effects, and to anticipate and mitigate its future impacts.
Conclusions and policy recommendations
Insights presented in this report indicate that tourism, although a relatively minor emissions sector, is a significant one if a business as usual approach is maintained. Many governments, industry and tourism organisations expressed the view that tourism must achieve significant reductions in GHG emissions, in line with other industry sectors. None of the commitments expressed by industry are, however, binding, while the "aspirational" targets postulated by various organisations and industry groups have been criticised as impossible to achieve (Scott et al., 2010). Global, national and regional climate policy will thus have to play a key role in achieving any significant de-carbonisation of global and national tourism systems.
Various reports have outlined the global environmental and socio-economic risks associated with the magnitude of climate change projected for the end of the century. These risk projections feature prominently in international policy debates. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded, with a very high degree of confidence, that climate change beyond certain threshold levels would impede the ability of many countries to make progress on sustainable development, and would become a growing security risk (IPCC, 2007). The Stern Review concluded that the costs of economic disruption resulting from inaction would be far higher than the costs of reducing GHG emissions now (Stern, 2006). The Global Humanitarian Forum, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, outlined the extent of the effects of climate change, already affecting the livelihoods of 325 million people, causing 300 000 deaths per year and resulting in economic losses of USD 125 billion (Global Humanitarian Forum, 2009). This death toll is expected to rise to an estimated half a million a year by 2020, with four billion people regarded as vulnerable to climate change and half a billion regarded as at extreme risk.
In response to a growing understanding of the consequences of climate change for ecosystems and socio-economic development, a range of conferences have been held since 1992, when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) took place in Rio de Janeiro. One of the outcomes of UNCED was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This treaty, with the objective of stabilising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent "dangerous interference with the climate system", was opened for signature in 1992 and entered into force on 21 March 1994. As of December 2009 it had been ratified by 192 countries. A Conference of the Parties (COP) has been held annually since 1995 to establish a framework for intergovernmental initiatives to deal with the challenges posed by climate change...
Adaptation is relevant to deal with climate change related impacts that are unavoidable. The level of climate change to which stakeholders may have to adapt, however, depend to a great extent on emission pathways. Policy focusing on adaptation must generally consider more complex interrelationships than policy focusing on mitigation, i.e. dynamic physical change occurring in the short to long-term future, with largely unknown response patterns by tourists. Consequently, developing adaptation policy means dealing with greater uncertainty. Some policy developments, although not specifically designed to address climate change, may nevertheless play a part in this adaptation. A case in point is the recent EU policy to address seasonality, encouraging countries to spread out their holiday periods and thereby distribute tourists more evenly, which could also help overcome problems related to changing weather parameters.
Proposed agenda for further research and development
A number of key policy actions seem to emerge from the findings in this report. Strong growth in emissions from aviation is unavoidable if no stronger regulatory environment is implemented. Aviation industry groups and tourism organisations maintain that emission reduction strategies need to consider "social and economic" dimensions, as well as the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" (CBDR). It is unclear whether growth in tourism emissions can be compensated for by greater emission reductions in other sectors – maintaining a 2°C objective - and whether further growth is possible even under the CBDR principle, given that for instance many tourism-dependent island states already exceed sustainable per capita emission levels (Gössling, 2010). Policy development and research will need to address both the ethical and economic implications of exceeding the 2°C objective, based on i) the argument of poverty alleviation, and ii) burden sharing between sectors, based in part on the argument that aviation’s options for reducing emissions will be better in the longerterm future.
Annex A: OECD Country Pledges to UNFCCC
Annex B: National Documentation
Annex C: UNEP Biofuels Documents and Tools
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