‘Time running out for travel’ without radical action to decarbonise

Time is running out for the travel industry to take the action on decarbonisation that will enable it to meet its ‘net zero’ targets.

The delay in worldwide action to slow the climate crisis has left the travel industry with a single pathway to meeting its decarbonisation targets.

That is according to Professor Paul Peeters, who led the modelling behind a Travel Foundation report released last week on the future of travel and tourism.

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The study, Envisioning Tourism in 2030, models how travel and tourism could look in 2030 and 2050 with and without decarbonisation and the action required to decarbonise sufficiently to reach ‘net zero’.

Having modelled a variety of scenarios, deploying different sets of policies and actions, the study concludes there is only one way for travel and tourism to meet the necessary goals.

Peeters, professor of sustainable tourism, transport and tourism at Breda University of applied science, said: “If we would have done this 20 years ago, probably we would have had more options. But we had quite a long time before we really started to recognise the problem and start doing something about it.

“Now the options are quite limited – 50% less emissions in seven years is very difficult.”

A 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 is recommended by the UN and hundreds of travel organisations have committed to this by signing the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Peeters said the group behind the study did not expect to identify only on effective scenario, but he added: “Personally, I knew it would be very difficult to find a big range of scenarios that make the zero emissions target.”

The study assumed travel and tourism would double in size by 2050, as forecast, and applied a ‘systems dynamics model’ to examine the likely results.

Professor Peeters explained: “The model is an established way of programming. The advantage is that you can let the system bite its own tail. The outcome of a certain calculation can go back into the input for that same calculation.

“That is important because the real world is full of feedback loops and, normally, we have difficulty to model them.

“This allows us to model for long periods. The model is based on very detailed data about travel and tourism in the world since 1900 and it looks ahead for another century.

“It’s far more than just looking at trends. It combines the mechanisms behind the trends and allows you to do things in terms of implementing policies.”

He said: “The model is a kind of flight simulator for global tourism. We proposed combinations of the 40 policies you can change in the model and then immediately saw, this is working, this is not working. Some scenarios had tourism collapse as a whole.”

But Peeters noted: “In the zero-emission scenario, 90% of all trips ended up in the same kind of markets as they would have done in the business-as-usual scenario. The big difference is we will not destroy the climate.”

The report is available free from the Travel Foundation site.

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