n the battle against climate change,tourism is not often considered an ally.Instead the sector, an economic lifelinefor millions in the world, tends to besingled out for its contribution to total greenhouseemissions and targeted with brakes on growth. As one of the world's largest and fastest growinghuman activities, there is no doubt that tourism is avector of climate change, yet its potential contributionto the transformation to a greener economy is oftenforgotten and overlooked. FINDING THE RIGHT FORMULATourism is estimated to contribute five per cent of global CO2emissions, out of which 72 per cent come from transport and around 21 per cent from accommodation.The tourism sector has clearly acknowledged thatemissions must be curbed if it is to continue to growsustainably. As such, the sector has pledged tosubstantially reduce its global greenhouse gasemissions through evolving global agreements, public-private partnerships and new technologies. As laid outin the Davos Process initiated in 2007, UNWTO, asthe UN specialised agency for tourism, is committed tosupporting and guiding tourism's contribution to thisglobal challenge. It is equally important to design tourism adaptationand mitigation polices and strategies taking intoaccount the broader framework. That is, that tourismcurrently represents an estimated five per cent of theworld's GDP, one in twelve jobs globally and is one ofthe principal revenue, jobs and developmentopportunities for many countries, particularly the LeastDeveloped Countries (LDCs) and Small IslandDeveloping States (SIDS). The question is therefore how to ensure that theworld's poorest countries - over half of which havetourism as a priority instrument for poverty reduction -continue to benefit from the income and socialopportunities provided by the tourism sector, whiletackling global warming in a win-win formula. This call is being echoed in current political andeconomic discourse at the highest levels. The last fewyears, with a global economic crisis putting intoquestion the growth paradigms of the last decades,have seen the idea of a "green economy" emerge andmove into the mainstream. Above:Tourism will be animportant factor as Haitirecovers from theearthquake that struckthe country in 2010Above right:Dr TalebRifai, UNWTO SecretaryGeneralRight:Laos has emerged as a populartourist destination inSoutheast AsiaTOURISM -A LEAD AGENT IN THE TRANSFORMATIONTO A GREENER ECONOMY104TOURISMIDR TALEB RIFAI, SECRETARY-GENERAL, THE UNITED NATIONS WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION (UNWTO)UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
According to the report, tourism is one of the most promising drivers of growth for the worldeconomy and, with the appropriate investment, cancontinue to grow steadily over the coming decades,contributing to much-needed economic growth,employment and development while mitigating itsenvironmental impacts. Investment in green tourism would stimulate jobcreation, especially in poorer communities, withincreased local hiring and sourcing and a positive spill-over effect on other areas of the economy. The direct economic contribution of tourism to local communities would also be increased;maximising the amount of tourist spending that isretained by the local economy. Finally, a green tourismeconomy would ensure significant environmentalbenefits including reductions in water consumption,energy use and CO2emissions.Given tourism's sheer size and reach, even smallchanges towards greening can have significantimpacts. But to drive these actions, the sector needsthe right policies and the right investment. INVESTING IN TOURISM FOR AGREENER AND FAIRER ECONOMYGovernments, and the international community atlarge, have a key role to play in the move towards greentourism, namely through establishing sound regulatoryframeworks, facilitating public investment andincentivising private engagement. This is of particularimportance to development given the opportunitiesgenerated by tourism for developing countries. A well-designed policy framework will drive greenTOURISM105A green economy is one that results in "improvedhuman well-being and reduced inequalities over the long term, while not exposing futuregenerations to significant environmental risks andecological scarcities" (United Nations EnvironmentProgramme (UNEP)) and represents a decisive steptowards sustainability. Tourism, far from being locked in a zero-sum gamewith climate change, can be a lead agent in thetransformation to the green economy. THE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION OFTOURISM TO LOCAL COMMUNITIESAt the beginning of 2011, the Green Economy Report- a ground breaking UN study, led by UNEP, on how tospur a green transformation while ensuring continuedgrowth - identified tourism as one of ten economicsectors key to greening the global economy.UN Photo/Robaton ?