NEW YORK: Climate action is essential to help ensure a sustainable future for the global tourism industry, Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister told the UN on Thursday.
In a speech during the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, Ahmed Al-Khateeb underscored the vulnerability of the sector in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the ongoing effects of climate change and extreme weather events.
He pointed out that carbon dioxide emissions resulting from tourism are forecast to increase by 25 percent by 2030, compared with 2016 levels, and it is therefore “critical” that action on climate change be scaled up.
“The tourism sector lost an estimated 62 million jobs globally during the global pandemic,” he said. “COVID-19 highlighted the vulnerability of the sector, not only to pandemics but also to the effects of extreme weather.
“Addressing climate change is at the heart of building a more resilient tourism industry and there is no resilience without sustainability. We must work collaboratively to put sustainable and resilient tourism at the heart of inclusive recovery, to ensure long-term sector resilience for people and the planet.
“Only by doing these things together will we ensure a better and more resilient future for the millions of people around the world who rely on tourism.”
Al-Khateeb said the effects of the pandemic had underscored the need to secure the future of the tourism sector and further highlighted the need to protect the environment.
Saudi authorities have launched a range of biodiversity and conservation initiatives designed to breed and protect endangered species, in line with the aims of the country’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan.
By the end of the decade, the Kingdom aims to be conserving a total area of land 11 times the size Belgium and has committed to protecting 20 percent of its land, coastal and marine environments. In partnership with the Middle East Green Initiative, as part of which 40 billion trees will be planted across the region, the project will restore 200 million hectares of degraded land. This represent 5 percent of a global target of planting 1 trillion trees.
At COP 26, the UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow last November, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of the Sustainable Tourism Global Center, a multi-stakeholder platform for action that will help to accelerate the sector’s transition to net-zero emissions.
In addition, a new Tourism Panel on Climate Change, a climate science assessment and measurement initiative by the STGC, will help to advance climate-resilient tourism and demonstrate the important role of the travel and tourism sector in contributing to improved human development.