The world-wide tourism industry is booming and worth over $7 trillion. It employs 10% of workers and brings in massive revenue for areas which may have little else. The industry is growing by 4% each year, driven by new wealth in emerging economies such as China, Brazil and Mexico.
A study in Nature Climate Change found that tourism is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, much more than the 2.5-3% previously estimated. It found that the carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e between 2009 and 2013. The most significant contributor is transport, followed by shopping and food. As with most emissions, high-income countries are responsible for the majority of this footprint. Some small island nations, such as the Maldives and the Seychelles, generate a significant proportion of income through tourism, yet are among the most at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change.
The strong annual growth of tourism has surpassed efforts of the industry to decarbonise, but the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is upbeat about the momentum seen in “a growing number of hotels, airports and tour operators that have all become carbon neutral”. A great example of this is Cochin Airport in Kerala, India, the first ever fully solar powered airport.
Tourism also does possess a great power to benefit some aspects of the environment and help achieve other UN Global Goals. For example, the Gorilla trekking licences in Rwanda and Uganda which fund the conservation of mountain gorillas, and the alternative livelihoods provided to small hill-tribe communities in Thailand which drives economic develop in remote areas. However, eco-tourism still has a significant carbon footprint due to the flights involved.
So, what are the solutions?
One way to mitigate the carbon footprint from your summer holiday is to offset the emissions through CO2balance’s Gold Standard carbon credits. As well as reducing CO2 emissions by reducing or removing the combustion of firewood and charcoal, CO2balance’s projects positively impact the target communities and help achieve the UN Global Goals by providing safe water, improving health by reducing indoor air pollution and creating gender equality by reducing the time required to collect firewood. Use our Flight Calculator to see the CO2 footprint from your flight and take a look at our Projects page or Contact Us to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint, help fight climate change and make a positive impact on people’s lives.