Industry must avoid ‘sleepwalking to destruction’ on climate change

The travel industry must play its part in reducing global CO2 emissions and avoid “sleepwalking to destruction”, last week’s ITT Conference was told.

Fiona Jeffery, the former World Travel Market chief and founder of industry charity Just a Drop, said: “Unless we act now we are sleepwalking into our own destruction.

“This is happening on our watch and it’s an extinction threat. I’m not scaremongering. This is happening.

“It won’t disrupt our lives but it will those of our children and grandchildren. There is an urgent need to act over the next 10 years if we are to hope to reduce CO2 emissions to hit targets by 2050 and it’s absolutely critical that the travel industry plays its part.”

ITT offset the carbon footprint of this year’s conference in Istanbul, working with host Hilton and Trees4travel, Jeffery said. She was voted on to the ITT board last year and has since established a sustainability committee.

This will work to set out priorities and identify key areas for the travel sector to focus on while encouraging ITT members to “embrace the sustainability agenda”.

The membership organisation aims to “provide the necessary leadership, support and guidance to aid this adoption including the sharing, promotion and recognition of best practice models both within and external to the industry”, said Jeffery.

She added: “It’s very important we aim to show that actions within the membership speak louder than words so we contribute to the long term sustainability of our industry.”

The ITT has identified four key pillars to focus on: Carbon management and emissions reduction; the protection of destinations and ensuring local communities benefit from tourism; the sharing of intelligence and collaboration; and tourism supply chains.

Jeffery said the industry should care because although it contributes only around 8% of global carbon emissions the planet is heating up and could reach a tipping point unless warming is restricted to 1.5 or two degrees centigrade set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

She said if we do not act the world faces a future of three degrees of warming by the 2050s or 2060s, hotter than anything in human experience, an ice-free Arctic year-round, millions of people displaced by rising sea levels, and a devastating four degree temperature rise by 2075.

Photo: Arif Gardner

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