The UN Climate Summit in Glasgow has been called a ‘do or die’ moment for climate change.
From transport to agriculture, many industries have been challenged to sign various Glasgow Declarations and commit to ambitious climate action plans.
Tourism and travel were no exception. On 4 November, the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism was launched and has been described as the travel industry’s ‘boldest move yet’ towards climate accountability,.
But what exactly is the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, who can sign it and what does it mean for the environment and travellers?
What is the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism?
The declaration is a one-page pledge. Signatories commit to halving emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.
Who was behind the Glasgow Declaration?
The declaration is based on a framework created by Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, a UK-based not-for-profit.
The NGO was launched by two Brits in January 2020; Jeremy Smith, a sustainable tourism writer and Alex Narracot who founded Much Better Adventures.
Since then, the organisation has focused on getting travel businesses to do exactly what the Glasgow Declaration has achieved: declare a climate emergency and develop actual plans to prevent it.
Who actually wrote it?
Tourism Declares may have created the framework, but they had help when it came to producing the final document.
Representatives from UK-based charity the Travel Foundation, VisitScotland, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) worked together over 6 months to fine-tune the wording.
Input from more than 30 organisations was also considered.
Who can sign?
Anyone working in travel, whether it’s a private or public organisation, can sign the declaration for free. This includes everyone from global travel organisations to regional tourism operators, solo PR writers to accommodation providers.
Do you have to do anything after signing?
Unlike those vague petitions you see floating around on Twitter, signatories for the Glasgow Declaration aren’t just showing support, they’re committing to delivering a “climate action plan” within 12 months and reporting publicly on its progress.
What must these ‘climate action plans include?
According to the Glasgow Declaration, plans need to cover five components:
1. Measure: Disclosing all travel and tourism-related emissions.
2. Decarbonise: Set and deliver targets aligned with climate science, without relying on offsetting.
3. Regenerate: Restore, protect and support natural ecosystems.
4. Collaborate: Share best practices with fellow stakeholders.
5. Finance: Ensure you have the money to do all of the above.
What do you ‘declare’ by signing?
In the actual words of the declaration: “We declare our shared commitment to unite all stakeholders in transforming tourism to deliver effective climate action. We support the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. We will consistently align our actions with the latest scientific recommendations, so as to ensure our approach remains consistent with a rise of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.”
What happens once you have a climate action plan?
All climate action plans will be uploaded to One Planet Network: a website run and monitored by the UNEP and UNWTO.
Tourism Declares will then become the Travel Foundation’s primary climate action program, helping tourism organisations to actually deliver on their plans.
Why is the Glasgow Declaration so newsworthy?
Essentially, it’s the first time the travel industry have been given such a global, united way to commit to addressing climate change.
Travel Foundation CEO Jeremy Sampson said collaboration was a key component.
“We know we must collaborate and scale-up like never before, connecting both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches by galvanising community action and creating levers for change across governments and corporations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Declares founder Jeremy Smith said big players are already coming to the table.
“We’re already seeing countries and big household names [in travel] who haven’t joined Tourism Declares before, because we were a little unfunded operation or maybe they thought we were ‘too activist’, now committing to and signing Glasgow,” he said.
“It’s a scaling up of ambition like we’ve never seen before, a landmark moment in our industry’s response to the climate emergency.”
What does the Glasgow Declaration mean for travellers?
If the Declaration goes according to plan, the advantages aren’t just confined to the environment, but those who live, travel and work in countries around the world.
The era of greenwashing could come to a close as new levels of transparency help people see what operators and organisations are practicing what they preach.
Meanwhile, the focus on regenerative practices and collaboration with local communities creates opportunities for social and natural ecosystems to thrive.