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by Leo Jakobson | November 11, 2015
The world's largest travel and tourism companies have made significant strides in sustainability during the last decade, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which published a report today analyzing the travel industry's contribution to climate change alleviation. 

The report, "Travel & Tourism 2015: Connecting Global Climate Change Action," finds that the world's leading airlines, airports, hotels, cruise lines, car rental companies, and travel technology providers have collectively reduced their carbon emissions by 20 percent since 2005 and are on course to cut them by 50 percent by 2035, based on 2005 levels.

"In 2015, travel and tourism is forecast to contribute almost 10 percent of world GDP and 1 in 11 of all jobs on the planet. The strength of the sector is due to continue for the next decade at almost 4 percent per annum. With such robust growth, travel and tourism's relationship to climate change becomes critical," said WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill, noting significant progress in the industry already. "While the sector has grown, added more jobs, and contributed billions of dollars to economies all over the world, we have seen real commitment to sustainability from business as companies innovate and collaborate with others to reduce their overall impacts."

According to WTTC, the travel industry's progress to date is owed to several actions by companies, including:

• Admitting to the challenge of tackling climate change and setting out plans to address and measure it, including engaging with global frameworks for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. 

• Demonstrating on-the-ground action in the form of community engagement, charitable contributions, disaster relief, and conservation efforts, addressing issues such as deforestation and biodiversity protection.

• Educating customers and stakeholders by developing branded sustainability programs.

• Creating supplier screening and supply chain engagement programs to encourage more sustainable supply chains.

• Using operational environmental management systems and achieving green certifications.

Meanwhile, WTTC has outlined five priority areas to support continued progress:

1. Integrating climate change and related issues into business strategy by disclosing climate change issues in mainstream financial reporting, utilizing recognized frameworks and collaborating to harmonize the approach for disclosure within the travel industry.

2. Supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy by joining in the leading practice of establishing an internal price of carbon, focusing on renewables for new investments, seeking low-carbon financing mechanisms, contributing to local economies with carbon mitigation, and catalyzing economies of scale to create a virtuous circle.

3. Strengthening local resilience by recognizing the value that local natural and cultural heritage has for travel and tourism, enhancing the assessment of operations, and forging partnerships to build resilience against climate risks, reducing local drivers of climate change.

4. Promoting the value of responsible travel by giving travelers the tools to be responsible travelers, encouraging participation in green initiatives, and offering new experiences tied directly to low-carbon solutions.

5. Engaging across the value chain by focusing efforts on the biggest opportunities found across the entire value chain to reduce carbon emissions through mechanisms such as supplier screening and local procurement.

"The next 20 years will be characterized by our sector fully integrating climate change and related issues into business strategy, supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy, strengthening resilience at a local level against climate risks, promoting the value of responsible travel, and greening entire supply chains," Scowsill continued. "To reach these long-term goals, much still needs to be done across travel and tourism and other sectors, but we now have a common understanding and are ever-closer to agreement on the global actions necessary."