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New Tourism Coalition Brings Together World Leaders at COP26 to Accelerate Net Zero Transition

Global tourism leaders on a panel at COP 26 to discuss the New Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC) commitment to achieving net-zero emissions

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—A new coalition will accelerate tourism’s transition to net zero, audiences at COP26 heard this week. Ministers from major tourism destinations and leaders from international organizations have voiced their support to achieve a sustainable travel and tourism industry, through the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC).

The STGC is a multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition established to lead, accelerate, and track the tourism industry’s transition to net-zero emissions, as well as drive action to protect nature and support communities.

The tourism industry is highly fragmented, with developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) being most reliant on tourism for their economies. More than 40 million tourism businesses—or 80 percent of the whole industry—are small or medium sized. The STGC aims to support people and the planet by reforming tourism’s contribution to climate change, in a bid to protect the environment and support those who need it most.

At a special session on the future of the STGC at COP26, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, was joined by former President of Mexico and Chair of New Climate Economy, and the World Resources Institute, Felipe Calderon; David Livingston, Senior Advisor, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and other leaders.

How Strategy Will be Shaped

The Center’s strategy will be shaped by a coalition of governments, international organizations, academia, multilateral and financing institutions and industry associations.

The countries invited to be part of this important coalition in phase one, are the UK, USA, France, Japan, Germany, Kenya, Jamaica, Morocco, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have prioritized climate, tourism and SMEs which will allow for synergies for this important initiative.

The top organizations that will help to shape the center and provide the services in phase one are WRI (World Resource Institute), UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council), World Bank, and SYSTEMIQ. Harvard University will provide support to the STGC through research and capacity-building, while the UNFCCC will guide the Center to accelerate industry action on climate neutrality.

The Center will deliver services and products across three core pillars, including knowledge creation and sharing, measurement and monitoring, and industry enablement. Across these pillars, the STGC will focus on at least in nine areas of industry support, including developing standards and resource provision for the tourism sector, capability building, and project funding and investment.

Center to be Headquartered in Riyadh

The Center will be headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and plans to open regional offices in other countries, with a strong multilingual online presence.

Other countries and organizations will be invited to join in phase two. In addition, a group of global experts in tourism and climate is being assembled to support this important effort.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, and the fragility of communities dependent on tourism to external shocks. We must act now to make the industry and local communities far more resilient and to help solve the challenge of climate change. That requires engaging with business, governments, and international organizations to accelerate action. Saudi Arabia is committed to contributing to this critical effort,” said His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism, Saudi Arabia.