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International Tourism at One Billion: Meeting the Climate Challenge A s international tourism nears one billion travellers in a single year, the sector continues to work tirelessly to face the challenge of climate change.By the end of 2012, one billion tourists will have traveled the globe in a single year. This is an extraordinary figure, especially when we consider that just over 60 years ago international tourists stood at a mere 25 million. In 1950 - when tourism was the preserve of the privileged few - it would have been almost unimaginable that by 2012 one seventh of the world would be on the move and crossing international borders in just one year.Reaching one billion is welcome news for the world's economies, all of which count to varying degrees on tourism's contribution to GDP and employment, but it also raises understandable concerns: What does this number mean for carbon emissions? How can governments prevent harmful tourism practices? Is one billion compatible with sustainability? These questions need answering and the tourism sector has a heavy responsibility on its shoulders as it continues along its phenomenal growth trajectory. Yet the answer lies not in putting brakes on tourism, the livelihood of hundreds of millions worldwide, but rather in how to put in place the right conditions to capitalize on the enormous opportunity embodied in one billion people. Tourism, a strategic sector of the Green Economy Tourism is estimated to be responsible for around 5 per cent of global carbon emissions, a figure the sector is working tirelessly to bring down. The aviation industry, responsible for nearly half of tourism's total " Investment in green tourism would stimulate job creation, especially in poorer communities, with increased local hiring and sourcing "Dr Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)carbon emissions, has committed to cap net emissions from 2020 and cut them in half by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. The accommodation industry is at the forefront of some of the world's most innovative sustainable energy initiatives, with practices in hotels often replicated in other industries. At the same time, tourism has been recognised as a sector that, as it expands over the coming decades, can contribute to much-needed economic growth, employment and development while ensuring significant environmental benefits such as reductions in water consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions. This was one of the conclusions of the Green Economy Report - a ground breaking UN study, led by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), on how to spur a green transformation while ensuring continued growth - which identified tourism as one of ten economic sectors key to greening the global economy.The Tourism Chapter of the Green Economy Report, developed together with UNWTO, shows that investing in environmentally-friendly tourism can drive economic growth, lead to poverty reduction and job creation, while improving resource efficiency and minimising environmental degradation. Investment in green tourism would stimulate job creation, especially in Pictured Above: Tourism represents around 45 per cent of the exports of services for least developed countriesRight: Dr Taleb RifaiBelow: Mountain HikersCredit: UNWTO126 TOURISM

poorer communities, with increased local hiring and sourcing and positive spill-over effects on many other areas of the economy. The direct economic contribution of tourism to local communities would also be increased, maximising the amount of tourist spending retained by the local economy. Finally, a green tourism economy would ensure significant environmental benefits, including reductions in water consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions.Given that international tourism today comprises one billion travelers and hundreds of millions more employed directly or indirectly in the sector, even small changes towards greening can have significant impacts. But to drive these actions, the sector needs the right policies and the right investment.A green tourism agenda for governmentsFor tourism to contribute to social and economic development within the carrying capacities of ecosystems, a set of enabling conditions must be put in place. Governments, leading groups like the G8 and the international community at large have a particularly important role to play in this regard. This is of particular importance to the development agenda given the opportunities generated by tourism for least developed and developing countries. Representing around 45 per cent of the exports of services for least developed countries, tourism often provides them with one of the few competitive options to take part in the global economy. It is little surprise that tourism has been identified by most Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) as a powerful engine for poverty reduction and development. Sound regulatory frameworks, public investment and private engagement are all needed from governments in the move towards green tourism. Economic instruments and fiscal policy can be used to reward sustainable investments and practices and discourage uncontrolled tourism expansion. Coordination within government, between all ministries and with local government, is also key to ensuring policy coherence and spearheading sustainability efforts. Perhaps the single greatest limiting factor for greening tourism is lack of access to capital, particularly at a global scale for developing countries, and at national level for all Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which represent the bulk of the sector. Public financing is essential for jumpstarting the green economic transformation. Governments and international organisations need to facilitate the financial flow to the tourism sector by prioritising investment and spending in areas that stimulate greening. Subsidies and tax incentives are just some of the tools that governments can employ. Through public-private partnerships, governments can help to spread the costs and risks of large green tourism investments. At the same time, government spending on public goods such as protected areas, water conservation, waste management, sanitation, public transport and renewable energy infrastructure can reduce the cost of green investments by the private sector in green tourism. One billion tourists, one billion opportunitiesThere can be no question that reaching one billion international tourists is a major responsibility; a responsibility to meet the needs of today's tourists and host communities while protecting our environment, social values and cultural heritage. Yet, given the size of the sector - and with the correct policies, the adequate business strategies and the right attitudes in place - the potential of one billion tourists for sustainability is enormous. At Rio+20 the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is at the heart of discussions. With tourism identified as one of the sectors best able to deliver on the green economy, the missing piece of the tourism puzzle is political commitment, investment and support from governments around the world. It is my hope that as we reach one billion, and in the context of RIO+20, tourism's value is increasingly recognised, not just as an economic force, but as one of the human activities best able to lead a future of fairer, stronger and more sustainable growth. nCredit: UN PhotoTOURISM 127