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Next steps on climate change after COP 22

  • December 8, 2016

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In November ITP’s Programme Manager Nicolas Perin attended COP 22. Here are his thoughts on the industry’s next steps for climate change.

Despite its billing as the “COP of action”, COP 22 Marrakech last month didn’t make as many climate change headlines as the Paris agreement last year.

Negotiating parties at the conference were set to discuss implementation of the agreement through more technical discussions – a less eye-catching prospect for the media – until November 9th, when the world woke up to the arrival of a new climate-sceptic U.S. administration.

Although this dark cloud cast shade over the conference and distracted the media away from its content, participants refused to let attention drift from the importance of the international climate agenda.

Panellists were clear that we need certainty and focus more now than ever. As Christiana Figueres stressed earlier this year, climate action provides a “thread of certainty” much needed by businesses, regulators and investors in a troubled new world order. The roots, issues and solutions to climate change remain unchanged; most governments (including China and the EU) are strongly engaged to fight it; and they’ve been joined by a critical mass of businesses and investors to drive it forward.

Quite simply we are running out of time. In his recent lecture to the Carbon Trust, Sir Nicholas Stern described global climate action over the past 10 years as effective in explaining the challenge of climate change, but not its urgency. The coming years will now be critical to the capability of our societies to limit climate change by making the right choices on energy, infrastructures, and cities.

What was decided at COP22?

Two weeks of COP 22 led to a “Marrakech action proclamation for our climate and sustainable development” which essentially:

  • Reaffirmed the commitment of governments to fully implement the Paris Agreement.
  • Called on the private sector to foster innovation, capacity and finance for low-carbon innovation and technology, notably through the newly launched Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action.
  • Pushed back any concrete decision on developed country parties’ contributions to the USD $100 billion mobilization goal to 2018.
  • Called for increased collaboration between public and private sectors through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

How could the tourism industry improve its climate action following COP22?

The tourism sector took part in COP 22 with a strong focus on implementation of the SDGs and the need for tourism businesses, states and local governments to join efforts to ensure long term sustainability. Attending the three-day symposium of the 10YFP Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production in tourism led by UN-Environment and the UNWTO (one of COP22’s side events) as ITP’s representative offered a great insight into the coming trends of the sustainable tourism agenda.

International tourism organisations, certification bodies, sector initiatives and reporting frameworks need to further align on the key indicators they monitor to build a clearer image of the collective impact of our industry. How? Conversations in Marrakech highlighted the pivotal role of sub-sectors (e.g. hotel industry, cruise industry, air travel, etc.) in fostering common practice and creating level-playing fields (e.g. with methodologies such as the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative and Hotel Water Measurement Initiative). We need to stop mixing apples and oranges. Similar discussions took place during World Responsible Tourism Day at World Travel Market where there were calls for some sort of standardisation across CSR and environment reporting from responsible businesses who were being overwhelmed by the volume of reporting and different statistics they were being asked to gather.

And where tourism needs to start

From adopting science-based targets (which now has 200 signatories) to setting an internal price of carbon, the list of frameworks signposting for individual companies to take ambitious action is long. Looking beyond isolated initiatives, COP 22 focused on the power of partnerships and combining efforts between sectors. The public and private sectors desperately need each other to achieve significant progress on climate change. So do businesses across sub-sectors. By example, ITP members’ ambitious climate targets have found a powerful catalyser in the new Hotel Owners for Tomorrow coalition launched in Asia this year. Much of ITP’s focus in 2017 will be dedicated to bringing numerous and diverse players around the table to determine how to achieve these targets.

The coming months following COP 22 in Marrakech gives us an imperative to talk to each other. It’s no longer enough to preach to the choir; we need to start new conversations and get them heard wider. The new, vocal Trump administration may have sounded a note of climate scepticism, but actions speak louder than words.

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