UN Tourism Agency Sees Net-Zero Tourism Globally Through Ecological Restoration, Innovative Finance

Steve Zwick

Tourism is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and 300 stakeholders representing more than 70 percent of global tourism have endorsed the “Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action,” setting the goal of cutting emissions in half by 2050 and absorbing the rest through natural climate solutions.

GLASGOW | 4 November 2021 | The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which is the United Nations specialized agency charged with promoting sustainable tourism, today unveiled the “Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism” at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) here.

The Declaration commits companies to cut their emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with all residual emissions being absorbed through ecological restoration by 2050 at the latest.

More than 300 stakeholders are represented in the declaration, largely through the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents more than 70 percent of global tourism.

“The commitment is to not only reduce the footprint by changing business as usual operations but also offsetting…through blue carbon, for example,” said UNWTO Executive Director Zoritsa Urosevic in an interview with Ecosystem Marketplace.

She added that ecological restoration is particularly important to the tourism sector, which depends on natural beauty for its survival, and she said the UNWTO is in the process of launching a net-zero tourism fund, with contributions from tourists being matched by tour operators.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili conceded the gains that individual companies have made but stressed the need for a sector-wide effort involving government and international organizations as well.

“The Glasgow Declaration is a tool to help bridge the gap between good intentions and meaningful climate action,” he said.

Urosevic described an ambitious strategy for using tourism to promote regeneration, especially of coral reefs, but emphasized it would take time to get there.

“That’s the ambition, but we’re not there yet and we need your help,” she said.

“We need everyone’s help,” she added.

To hear our full conversation with UNWTO Executive Director Zoritsa Urosevic, check out episode 70 of Bionic Planet, available on all podcatchers, including iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, and this device here:

Here is a list of the initial signatures to the declaration:

  • Accor
  • AITO – The Specialist Travel Association
  • ANVR – Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators
  • Asian Ecotourism Network
  • Panama
  • Barbados
  • Bilbao Convention Bureau
  • Bucuti & Tara
  • Cairngorns National Park Authority
  • Dallas Fort Worth Airport
  • ETOA – European Tourism Association
  • Forum Anders Reisen
  • Future of Tourism Coalition
  • GSTC – Global Sustainable Tourism Council
  • Iberostar Group
  • Innovation Norway
  • Intrepid Travel
  • Legacy Vacation Resorts
  • Much Better Adventures
  • Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
  • NECSTouR – Network of European Regions for Sustainable and Competitive Tourism
  • Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
  • Pacific Tourism Organization
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Skyscanner
  • Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
  • The Long Run
  • Tourism Authority of Kiribati
  • Travalyst Limited
  • VisitScotland
  • World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
Steve Zwick is a freelance writer and produces the Bionic Planet podcast. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Ecosystem Marketplace, and prior to that he covered European business for Time Magazine and Fortune Magazine and produced the award-winning program Money Talks on Deutsche Welle Radio in Bonn, Germany.

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