Study finds travel decarbonisation measures ‘woefully inadequate’

Study finds travel decarbonisation measures ‘woefully inadequate’

Travel Foundation report also highlights that 1% of population account for 50% of emissions

  • New report outlines plan of action for sustainable air travel
  • 1% of the population account for 50% of commercial aviation emissions
  • Tourist boards should focus on targeting short-haul travellers
  • Proposal to cap long-distance flights
  • Dismisses offsetting as a “sticking plaster”

A new Travel Foundation report, based on dynamic modelling of forecast tourism growth, sustainability initiatives and CO2 emissions, warns the sector cannot remain on a business-as-usual path.

The report, ‘Envisioning Tourism in 2030 and Beyond’ dismisses the industry’s current sustainability measures as “woefully inadequate”, and calls for “limits to aviation growth” and a cap on long-haul trips. It states “trillion-dollar investments” in decarbonisation are needed.

The report concludes that travel can continue to grow through to 2050 if rapid decarbonisation is combined with capping trips beyond 8,000km – roughly the distance between London and Cancun.

The study, published on Wednesday, was produced in collaboration with Breda University of Applied Sciences, the European Tourism Futures Institute at NHL Stenden University, the Centre of Expertise in Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality, and the Netherlands Board of Tourism.

It suggests “limits must be applied” to aviation growth and proposes capping long-distance flights at 2019 levels. The report notes these comprised 2% of trips in 2019 but accounted for 19% of direct emissions, and – if unchecked – would account for 41% of emissions by 2050. 

Chile undersecretary of tourism Verónica Kunze said: “We’re a distant country, so depend to a greater extent on long-distance visitors. However, tourism has the task of reorienting at domestic and near-proximity markets.”

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The report also highlighted that “a small number of frequent fliers, less than 1% of the population, account for 50% of commercial aviation emissions".

The report warns the sector cannot achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 but suggests this could be achieved by 2036, with the industry reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050 while still growing.

The number of trips could double between 2019 and 2050 provided four out of five are less than 900km return – about the distance from London to Turin. In line with this, it urges tourist boards to target short-haul travellers.

It dismisses offsetting as a “sticking plaster”, calls for a "global plan to manage distribution flows” and concludes  that “the shape of travel needs to change”.

Senior industry stakeholders hailed the report. Intrepid Travel global environmental impact manager Susanne Etti said: “The report challenges all tour operators to move faster on decarbonising our businesses.”

Shaun Mann, senior tourism specialist at the World Bank, called it “a critical call to action”, while Expedia Group climate and sustainability senior manager Tessa Lee, said: “This research helps us better understand our path forward.”

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