x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UN agency wants capital to drive eco-friendly tourism

A campaign to make the tourism industry "greener" could be based in Abu Dhabi, if plans by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation become reality.

ABU DHABI // A campaign to make the tourism industry "greener" could be based in Abu Dhabi, if plans by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation become reality. The Madrid-based international agency is in talks with several local industry organisations which it hopes will become founder members of the campaign to reduce the carbon footprint of tourism, which accounts for five per cent of the world's carbon emissions, according to a UNWTO official.

The emissions-cutting campaign will be launched as soon as an accord has been reached at the Copenhagen climate talks. The talks, which run until December 18, are expected to result in a new global carbon-reduction regime that will set out clear targets and procedures for all countries, replacing the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. "As the issue has moved to climate change over the past five years or so, it became clear that travel and tourism is as much under the microscope as other sectors, and some elements, such as aviation, are more under the microscope," said Geoffrey Lipman, the UNWTO assistant secretary general and the director of the campaign.

He said the tourism sector should play a key role in the shift to a "green economy". Abu Dhabi is the obvious choice for the campaign because of its energy-related activities and initiatives such as the Masdar City carbon-neutral project, Prof Lipman said. "We have to reposition ourselves and there is probably no better opportunity than Copenhagen for doing exactly that," he said, adding that the UNWTO is confident the nearly 200 world leaders at the Copenhagen talks will reach a deal.

The UNWTO's planned campaign, to be called "Live the Deal", would provide those companies that have signed up with a set of online tools to monitor and help adjust their carbon reductions, tracking their achievements against the government requirements agreed at Copenhagen. Companies will also have access to updated information and research on measures to cut carbon emissions and move to a cleaner renewable energy source.

The UNWTO would also produce an annual report on the performance of various cities and organisations in meeting the new carbon-emission requirements. The organisation's membership target for 2010 is 20,000 from the travel and tourism industry around the world. Prof Lipman said the initial costs for hotels, airlines and other tourism-related businesses to reduce their carbon footprint could be quite high. However, initial expenses would be recouped as the energy-saving measures reduced the company's operational costs.

Tourism is a booming industry, according to his agency. The UNWTO's Tourism 2020 Vision report forecasts that international tourist arrivals are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020, up from 922 million last year. rbundhun@thenational.ae