Mitigating GHG emissions from tourism

Tourism contributes directly and indirectly to climate change. Direct emissions of GHG of tourism mainly relate to transport, which can account for up to 95% of the total emissions released during a particular trip. Accordingly, emissions of transport within the destination are small in comparison to those to the destination, for example 1:14 for inbound tourism to Amsterdam, or 1:20 in the Seychelles.

Overall, the carbon intensity of a trip will depend on the mode of transport, load factor, travel distance and the length of stay. Societal trends will influence the total amount of emissions caused in the future, as people tend to travel more often, for shorter periods, and to more distant destinations. In summary, tourism's role in generating GHG emissions is significant and likely to become more important given current trends.

The discussion of mitigation strategies for tourism cannot ignore the absolute and relative economic importance of this sector. One strategy might thus be to evaluate tourism's eco-efficiency, that is, the revenue generated per unit of CO2 emitted. There is evidence that some tourist trips cause up to 400 times more emissions per unit of financial value generated than others. For some destinations such as tropical islands, however, tourism might be of great economic importance, and, despite its less favourable eco-efficiency, there might be few alternative economic income alternatives. Thus, solutions need to be sought for these destinations, which, as should be noted, account only for a minority of the overall transport volume: 135,000 arrivals for the Seychelles in 2002 or 170,000 for Madagascar in 2001 compared to 77 million for France in 2002. Hence, the discussion of alternative economic opportunities for peripheral economies should not influence the overall debate on reducing transport volumes. Note that tourism, and particularly tourism in small developing islands, is also a potential victim of climate change, which might be an incentive to reduce its emissions, particularly of the rather minor share of tourists standing for a comparably large share of total emissions.

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