UN leader talks about the green imperative for travel and tourism
In a keynote speech to the World Travel and Tourism (WTTC) Summit in Japan Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit), called the travel and tourism to action for the summit’s 20th anniversary (Rio+20) in Brazil this June.
Said Strong "At the core of this challenge is the need for the industry to become a true leader in the greening of the economy. Indeed, the industry must see this as an imperative which will require the full commitment of its own leaders for their commitment to be credible in the wider world it must be accompanied by the commitment of significant resources. Even at the most difficult economic times, travel increases and with it the environmental impacts of travel, particularly the increasing greenhouse gas emissions it produces."
"The industry must integrate "green" as an absolute necessity for its own future and the responsibilities it has for the entire human future. Simultaneously, this new travelism vision and its commitment to action must be integrated into the mainstream movement for radical global change. Rio+20 must give strong momentum to this movement. This is the reason that your industry and WTTC as its leading organization needs to give high priority to its participation."
He asserted that to be really green, destinations have to have the controlling hand in tourism "In a sustainable green growth world, destinations will have the ultimate responsibility for their destiny."
And called for a new Green Growth and Travelism Institute: "Within that framework the establishment of a Green Growth & Travelism Institute will be a priority element, for reasons which I have outlined today. As a torchbearer of the green growth 2050 vision, this is envisaged as the center of a global network of related organizations and institutions."
"This initiative is very well advanced with prospects of support from a core group of universities on every continent. As a global underpinning to this work a book will be produced by the Institute and its engaged universities to coincide with Rio+20 with visionary views of more than 30 industry leaders of the aviation, hospitality, cruise and travel rectors."
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THE FULL TEXT:
Speech by Maurice F. Strong at World Travel and Tourism Council’s 12th Global Summit, Tokyo, Japan, on April 19, 2012
Travel and Tourism - The Green Imperative
Abbreviated on delivery.
I am pleased to have the opportunity of participating in this Global Summit. For me it marks a welcome return to this organization of the world’s leading and most universal industry with which I have had a long association.
The theme of this Summit "Leading a Dynamic Industry through Turbulent Times" could not be more relevant or timely. It comes at a time in which changes in the world economy are producing daunting challenges to your industry. These challenges have also produced a new generation of opportunity of which none, I contend, is more important to the future of this industry than the "green imperative".
My good friend and Mentor, Geoffrey Lipman, has coined the term "Travelism" to recognize the intrinsic relationship between tourism and travel. In its multiple dimensions, travelism is one of the most pervasive industries, driving the processes of globalization and contributing to the economy of even the smallest communities, providing an ever expanding linkage between and local and the global.
At the core of this challenge is the need for the industry to become a true leader in the greening of the economy. Indeed, the industry must see this as an imperative which will require the full commitment of its own leaders for their commitment to be credible in the wider world it must be accompanied by the commitment of significant resources. Even at the most difficult economic times, travel increases and with it the environmental impacts of travel, particularly the increasing greenhouse gas emissions it produces.
Tourism involves travel and it requires that the destinations which attract tourism be protected and enhanced. The industry has strong incentives to do so as well as a great responsibility. For the environments which attract tourists are not only great assets for the industry but for the communities in which they are located.
Advances in technologies and innovation have led to a rapid expansion of travel by air, rail and road that has made our world smaller. This has led to the phenomenal internationalization of trade, communication, sport and recreation. And in turn, the systemic relationships being developed between them are inextricably linked to the expansion of travel and tourism. The internet and social media are having a profound effect on the industry including the advent of "virtual" travel. Those who are slow to respond to these challenges will be left behind.
At the same time, a more accessible world also multiplies our risks and vulnerabilities - the rapid transmission of health threats, the impact of natural disasters conflict, the costs of energy and food and volatility in the markets for so many key commodities. The resulting crisis conditions are now afflicting the economies of the United States and Europe, affecting most countries and impacting especially the poor and disadvantaged in both developing and more industrialized countries. Energy costs which I believe will escalate to record levels will place an especially heavy burden on the industry
The economic and financial crises also highlight the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the winners and losers, in all countries. This deepening rich-poor divide is producing growing tensions and citizen protests as evidenced in the rapid expansion of the movement which began with the occupation of Wall Street.
This is clearly a time of momentous change on a scale that will have a profound effect on the human future. The theme of this Event and the influence of the participants in it provide a timely opportunity, indeed I would say a special responsibility - to consider how green travelism contributes to this challenge and can best contribute to its solutions.
The environment as nature’s capital is the greatest single resource for tourism and this provides a powerful incentive for the industry to protect it. It makes green tourism a necessity for the industry, not merely a fringe issue too often receiving more lip service than real commitment. Yet there is within the industry a disturbing tendency towards what we call "Green Washing". This clearly undermines our efforts to protect the environment on which tourism, indeed all life, depends.
The industry must integrate "green" as an absolute necessity for its own future and the responsibilities it has for the entire human future. Simultaneously, this new travelism vision and its commitment to action must be integrated into the mainstream movement for radical global change. Rio+20 must give strong momentum to this movement. This is the reason that your industry and WTTC as its leading organization needs to give high priority to its participation.
20 years ago you rose to the occasion - your very engagement at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Agenda 21 for Travel & Tourism that you produced and the leadership you then showed provided a beacon for the sector that was truly worthy of your role as one of the world’s largest and most influential industries
Today your industry needs an enlightened but radically reinvigorated agenda for green growth transformation. You have made notable progress on which the industry can now build. But it needs real and continuing action, targets, measurement and a new mindset that links economic, climate, social and environmental response and welcoming of global-local inclusion as fundamental. I am convinced you can make much more of your unique positioning if you fully integrate the interests of local communities into overall strategic policy in a meaningful way. In a sustainable green growth world, destinations will have the ultimate responsibility for their destiny.
Let me also call your attention to a fundamental issue in this change agenda - the importance of linking environmental and travelism education: particularly for the next leadership generation which will have to drive the most challenging changes. I am involved in an initiative, with likeminded colleagues to launch a World Environment University centered in the Island province of Jeju in South Korea.
Within that framework the establishment of a Green Growth & Travelism Institute will be a priority element, for reasons which I have outlined today. As a torchbearer of the green growth 2050 vision, this is envisaged as the center of a global network of related organizations and institutions. This initiative is very well advanced with prospects of support from a core group of universities on every continent. As a global underpinning to this work a book will be produced by the Institute and its engaged universities to coincide with Rio+20 with visionary views of more than 30 industry leaders of the aviation, hospitality, cruise and travel rectors, including several in this accidence.
I urge the WTTC and its members to support this initiative which could contribute so much to the further professionalization of the industry as well as the respect and influence it commands.
While local environmental conditions affect the tourism potential of virtually all destinations, the growing risks of climate change provide the greatest threats ever to the sustainability and security of life everywhere. Travelism is a victim of as well as a contributor to climate change as result of floods, droughts and increasingly turbulent weather. It is now widely recognized that travelism accounts for a growing proportion of global carbon emissions and this is growing rapidly with aviation the leading and most rapidly growing contributor.
The initiative of your Council in setting a goal of 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035 over 2005 levels and the International Air Transport Associations Commitment to a Mid-term goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 with reduction of emissions by 15% from 2005 levels by 2050 are commendable demonstrations of your response to this challenge. I will expect that, based on this, your industry will move ahead in strongly supporting, regulatory, voluntary and market-based mechanisms to ensure achievement of its objectives.
Travelism plays a key role in protecting the Earth’s natural capital - its biological diversity, the services that nature provides on which so much of our life and wellbeing depends. The eco systems - mountains, forests, islands, waters and coastal areas which provide some of the most attractive venues for tourism are nature’s gift to humankind which it is in our interest and responsibilities to protect.
Travelism also provides an immense range of opportunities for economic development and relief from poverty in some of the most disadvantaged areas. Agenda 21 for travel and tourism prepared in response to 1992 Earth Summit and more recently the very detailed report by the United Nations Environment Program on "The green economy, pathway to sustainable development and poverty eradication" define the many ways in which green tourism is essential to the development of the green economy.
Tourism creates jobs, opportunities for local entrepreneurship, small and medium sized business and economic development in virtually every community. There is no other industry that can have such a universal impact on economic development and the escape from poverty.
The greening of tourism must be much more than applying a green veneer over underlining activities which are far from green. The greening must occur at every level of the travelism system. It has to be the heart and core of the industry which must take the lead in this. But it must be supported in and incentivized by much more enlightened and effective government policies and practices. This means that the green growth lobby must become much more active and influential than those who lobby for less restrictive measures.
Travelism thrives on peace and sustainability and it is an essential contributor to it. Tourism which is such an important contributor to the economies of most countries provides them with a strong incentive to maintain internal security and protect the human rights of their people. The very conditions so necessary to the health of their tourist industry also helps to establish and maintain social stability and well being and provide expanding opportunities for their people.
I spend much of my time these days in China with which I have had a long relationship. After a century of internal turbulence and conflict, China has again emerged as one of the world’s great nations with an immense and growing impact on its future. No nation has a greater variety and diversity of tourist destinations from the habitats of pandas to its vast heritage of historic, cultural and national wonders. The Chinese are great tourists within their own country. Its domestic market is today twice as big as all of the international travel in the world. However Chinese international travel - where they are poised to become the leading global industry player - is less than 5% of its total travel.
There are few destinations in the world that do not receive Chinese visitors. Yet tourism in China is still at its early stages and there are immense opportunities for both tourism in China and by the Chinese travelling internationally.
As you will know, in the early stages of China’s remarkable economic growth, China like the more traditional developed countries gave little priority to the environment. It has paid a heavy price for this. The Chinese are now fully committed to developing a green economy. The greening of its economy is now a top priority and this will clearly contribute to its attractiveness for tourism. No country has greater potential for leadership in green tourism than China and this will continue to open up unprecedented opportunities for the greening of the industry.
Finally let me say that my personal experience with travel and the environment have been integral to my own life. It is out of my own experiences that I have become so firmly committed to the systemic relationship between the environment and tourism which makes this Summit so especially meaningful to me. I want to express my profound gratitude for this and for the opportunity of sharing with you my thoughts on the importance and indeed the imperative of making the transition to green travelism.