Tourism Declares Climate Emergency

Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency is an industry initiative to put the planet first through accountability and transparency.

August 17, 2020

Chatter in the tourism industry is consumed with open borders, quarantines, safety, and hygiene. Yet, it wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about overtourism and flight shaming. How quickly we forget …

But we can’t afford to forget.

Though 2020 may be remembered as the year COVID-19 crippled the industry, we really need to remember the industry’s role in combating an even more serious threat to humanity and the planet: The climate crisis.

Coming into 2020, travel and tourism was one of the world’s fastest-growing industries with an explosive compound annual growth rate of 2.9% from 2006 to 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. It remains a significant contributor of carbon emissions.

The pandemic pause gave the industry time to rethink its purpose and contribution to creating a better world. Unfortunately, new trends like revenge tourism and flights to nowhere indicate some people and companies are more interested in traveling than thinking mindfully about how and why to travel.

Cut emissions in half by 2030 should be the line against which every action is sense-checked. Every action we take today, for the rest of 2020, and every year until 2030.” - Jeremy Smith

As recently noted by Jeremy Smith for WTM: “Cut emissions in half by 2030. This is what defines the future of tourism. Not what tourism looks like in 2020, but what it needs to look like in ten years time. … Cut emissions in half by 2030 should be the line against which every action is sense-checked. Every action we take today, for the rest of 2020, and every year until 2030.”

Tour operators here and there have committed to offsetting carbon emissions, eliminating plastics, or investing in local communities’ efforts to address the climate crisis. However, there hasn’t been a whole lot of transparency about these efforts — G Adventures’ Ripple Score being an exception on this front — or industry accountability. 

That changed in January 2020 with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency (co-founded by Smith). 

This initiative encourages companies and industry professionals to identify a climate emergency plan and, more importantly, share the commitment and progress publicly.

The collective notes that every plan will be different. While the plan details matter, I think it is the public declaration combined with the action plan and public accountability that is a game changer. 

With that in mind, I — JoAnna Haugen — declare a climate emergency and join dozens of other companies, destinations, and individuals in the tourism industry.

This means I commit to doing five things:

  1. Developing a climate emergency plan.
  2. Sharing my commitment and progress publicly.
  3. Cutting carbon emissions.
  4. Working together with others.
  5. Advocating for change.

I have been working in the tourism industry for more than a decade and am an avid traveler in my personal life as well. I am also a firm believer that travel can be a force for good: helping people find shared connections and understanding, supporting local communities, and empowering people to become positive changemakers in their own lives.

Yet, I am well aware that my work and personal interests are not always aligned with the planet’s and humanity’s best interest. Therefore, I commit to the following:

  • Using Rooted to highlight environmental solutions that can be implemented within the tourism industry. This includes developing resources, sharing information, and supporting those leading the tourism industry in proactive, solutions-focused environmental work.
  • Amplifying social enterprises and companies proactively involved with climate and environmental initiatives.
  • Being strategic about stacking in-person conferences, meetings, work engagements, and personal trips to minimize flying time.
  • Offsetting all flights my partner and I take.
  • Continuing to find ways to reduce waste in my day-to-day life.

For those working in tourism, today is the day to do something about the climate crisis. We can’t afford to wait until next season, next year, or post-pandemic. If you haven’t already, declare a climate emergency and join a community committed to advocating for change.


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