The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, taking place this November in Glasgow (COP26), aims to be a ‘pivotal moment in the fight against climate change,’ poised to usher in a decade of united and urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. For nearly 30 years, the UN has been bringing together almost every country at its annual climate summit called COP (‘Conference of the Parties’). It was here that the Paris Agreement was launched in 2015 and now, with the window quickly closing to meet the Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the plans first presented in the Paris Agreement must be taken further.
Further to declaring a climate emergency and joining Tourism Declares, a community of more than 300 organizations in travel and tourism dedicated to the urgent call to cut emissions in half by 2030, TTC and its family of brands are pleased to announce the signing of the Glasgow Declaration. This Declaration, formed collaboratively between the UNWTO, UNEP, VisitScotland, Tourism Declares and Travel Foundation, unites our sector in a shared commitment to accelerating climate action towards 1.5 degrees.
In order for communities to benefit from travel & tourism and vice versa, we must assure their health and protection, a critical fact that puts destination protection as the shared responsibility of our industry. While the climate emergency is very real, we know that it’s not too late to take action and change our course, though as the recent IPCC report highlighted, that window is closing. The Glasgow Declaration then, is a call for action from the tourism sector, one which seeks to unite the industry through supporting organizations to build an effective path forward – because declaring a commitment to climate action is meaningless unless followed with swift action.
As outlined in the One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of Tourism from COVID-19, committing to and planning for a green recovery offers us a unique opportunity to transform the sector in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. If we can move rapidly away from carbon- and material-intensive ways of delivering visitor experiences, instead prioritising community and ecosystem wellbeing, then tourism can be a leader in transforming to a low-carbon future.
In 2020, TTC launched its new 5-year sustainability strategy, How We Tread Right (HWTR) which committed the global group of travel brands to becoming a carbon neutral business by 2030 or sooner. While all 11 sustainability goals outlined by HWTR contribute to addressing TTC’s carbon footprint and prioritize restoring the balance of nature, our specific action on greenhouse gas emissions is clear and prescriptive and outlined in TTC’s 5-point Climate Action Plan.
Our plan outlines a clear approach to achieving our goal of carbon neutrality that reflects the Glasgow Declaration’s five pathways to Measure, Decarbonise, Regenerate, Collaborate and Finance.
To understand and manage, you must measure. So first and foremost, we’ve committed to measuring the emissions from our business and trips. We measure our business emissions from offices, owned facilities and accommodations, hotels, ships, fleet, and employee business air travel. The carbon footprint of all trips across TTC brands, including all transportation, accommodations and meals, are measured through a custom trip calculator we developed with external experts.
We’re committed to building on carbon reduction efforts to date and setting ambitious targets by mid-2022. To support the world’s progress towards limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, we must ensure we explore every opportunity to drawdown our emissions and set ourselves on a path to net zero. This includes securing and generating renewable energy and assessing alternative fuels.
Through TreadRight, we’re investing in new, nature-based technologies to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere. These innovative solutions have massive potential to mitigate climate change and need our support to accelerate and scale as quickly as possible. In 2021, TreadRight invested in GreenWave, a regenerative ocean farming organization, and Project Vesta, using naturally occurring olivine rock to permanently store carbon on the ocean floor.
As an interim solution to address TTC’s unavoidable emissions, we will purchase carbon credits, including rolling out carbon neutral trips between 2022 – 2030. In partnership with South Pole, a leading offset provider, TTC will purchase verified carbon credits to offset emissions from our offices and employee business air travel.
The last point of our Climate Action Plan is to Evolve, because we know we can’t do this alone. That’s why signing onto Tourism Declares and the Glasgow Declaration is important. These commitments unite us in the mission of taking urgent climate action, and provide us a vision for a better future.