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New tourism coalition at COP26 to accelerate net zero transition

GLASGOW, Scotland, November 4, 2021

A new coalition will accelerate tourism’s transition to net zero, audiences at COP26 heard. Ministers from major tourism destinations and leaders from international organisations have voiced their support to achieve a sustainable travel and tourism industry, through the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC).
 
The STGC is a multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition established to lead, accelerate, and track the tourism industry’s transition to net-zero emissions, as well as drive action to protect nature and support communities.
 
The tourism industry is highly fragmented, with developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) being most reliant on tourism for their economies. More than 40 million tourism businesses – or 80 per cent of the whole industry – are small- or medium-sized. 
 
The STGC aims to support people and the planet by reforming tourism’s contribution to climate change, in a bid to protect the environment and support those who need it most, according to a statement from the organisers.
 
At a special session on the future of the STGC at COP26, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb was joined by former Mexico president and Chair of New Climate Economy, and the World Resources Institute, Felipe Calderon; David Livingston, Senior Advisor, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and other leaders.
 
The centre’s strategy will be shaped by a coalition of governments, international organisations, academia, multilateral and financing institutions and industry associations.
 
The countries invited to be part of this coalition in phase one, are the UK, USA, France, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Jamaica, Morocco, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have prioritised climate, tourism and SMEs which will allow for synergies for this initiative.
 
The top organizations that will help to shape the centre and provide the services in phase one are WRI (World Resource Institute), UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council), World Bank, and SYSTEMIQ in addition to Harvard University, which will provide support to the STGC through research and capacity-building.
 
The centre will deliver services and products across three core pillars, including knowledge creation and sharing, measurement and monitoring, and industry enablement. Across these pillars, the STGC will focus on at least nine areas of industry support, including developing standards and resource provision for the tourism sector, capability building, and project funding and investment.
 
The centre will be headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and plans to open regional offices in other countries, with a strong multilingual online presence.
 
Other countries and organisations will be invited to join in phase two. In addition, a group of global experts in tourism and climate is being assembled to support this effort.
 
Al Khateeb said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, and the fragility of communities dependent on tourism to external shocks. We must act now to make the industry and local communities far more resilient and to help solve the challenge of climate change. 
 
"That requires engaging with business, governments, and international organisations to accelerate action. Saudi Arabia is committed to contributing to this critical effort.”
 
Calderon said: “We share this initiative with global leaders who joined our mission to make tourism a lever toward achieving the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. There is a window of opportunity for business and governments to come together to drive these objectives, and the STGC will serve as a ‘north star’ to achieve this mission.”
 
Jamaica's Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said: “The Government of Jamaica, as a Small Island Developing State and vulnerable economy, remains committed to resilience building for sustainable development, including through sustainable tourism. In this regard, Jamaica welcomes the opportunity to partner with the Sustainable Tourism Global Center to contribute to and benefit from this collaborative effort to secure a better planet for future generations.”
 
United Kingdom COP Regional Ambassador for Middle East and Africa Janet Rogan said: “We are proud to be hosting COP26. Humanity has run down the clock on climate change. It is now time to take action. Tourism is a key sector that supports jobs and growth and we are pleased to be part of this new initiative to accelerate the sector’s transition to net zero.”
 
Morocco Minister of Tourism, Handicrafts and Social Economy Fatim-Zahra Ammor said: “Under the guidance of King Mohammed VI, Morocco made sustainability one of the main pillars of its former sectorial strategies as well as its new development model. 
"During the last two years, the whole world has been severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and tourism is one of the most affected sectors. It is crucial to join our efforts to build and co-design a sustainable recovery plan related to travel and tourism activities. The Sustainable Tourism Global Center is an important step towards this goal.”
 
World Travel & Tourism Council President and CEO Julia Simpson said: “At a time where leadership is most needed to address the climate emergency, we commend Saudi Arabia’s initiative that will support the sector to achieve the global goals and ensure a sustainable future. WTTC is delighted to contribute to the centre through its data, research and expertise from businesses across the globe.”
 
Gloria Guevara, Chief Special Advisor to Al Khateeb, said: “The tourism sector has been through so much throughout this pandemic and combined with the urgency of a response to climate change, it needs a global solution. SMEs in our sector – like a travel agency or tour operator – might not know their carbon footprint and how to contribute to the race to zero. 
 
"Every time we go on holiday, we create jobs and reduce poverty, it would be great if we reach a point that the more we go on holiday, the better it is for the planet. The multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition will bring tourism’s fragmented stakeholders together and provide knowledge to drive action now.”
 
Harvard University Department of Environmental Health Principal Investigator Dr. Ramon Sanchez, said: "To create a sustainable global tourism industry, all community, business, and government stakeholders require the tools, frameworks, and best practices necessary to contribute to reaching this objective. 
 
"The team at Harvard is excited to collaborate with the STGC on research that will play a critical role in building the foundation and driving the industry toward net-zero".
 
UNFCCC Manager for Global Climate Action Niclas Svenningsen said: “Tourism is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change and one of the sectors that has most to contribute to the 2030 sustainable development agenda. Climate action offers a win-win opportunity to recover economies, communities and countries in a sustainable and climate friendly fashion.”-TradeArabia News Service



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