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Published on Sunday, September 27, 2020

Climate Friendly Travel - The Green & Clean Future We Need

Earlier this month, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres issued a policy brief on the important role of Tourism, in a post COVID 19 socio-economic recovery and importantly he specifically called for "Climate Friendly Travel" from this sector, which drives some 10% of the world economy.


The Secretary General is right, the climate crisis is existential, and scientists tell us we have less than a decade to put our carbon emission house in order. As the world struggles through the coming months of  pain and hardship, it's the time for tourism stakeholders, including travellers themselves to focus on what shape Climate Friendly Travel might take and then to put in place concrete actions to deliver it.


But what does this expression "Climate Friendly Travel mean in a world where young campaigners are pointing to contrails and calling for flight shaming or where many popular destinations are being criticised for "overtourism" - too many visitors, straining infrastructure and making residents lives intolerable.


At SUNx Malta - a legacy program to honour the achievements of the late Maurice Strong, Climate and Sustainable Development leader for over half a century - we are working, with the support of the government of Malta, to make the Secretary General's world of "Climate Friendly Travel" a positive reality.  And we are using the UN's own Global Strategic Climate and Development Framework, as well as its agreed timelines, to do so.


The 17 SDG's (Sustainable Development Goals) with 169 targets and 200+ indicators, as well as a 2030 delivery - were introduced as a blueprint for "the future we want". They allow countries, communities, companies, and consumers to select, prioritise and plan their own distinctive development patterns and timetables. We see this as the first pillar in the Climate Friendly Travel archway, leading to a Green future. The second pillar is the Paris Climate Agreement's 1.5o trajectory, with nationally determined contributions and a 2050 delivery timeline: this provides an equally unique Clean future. These are the Twin Pillars of Climate Friendly Travel - Green & Clean.


With the leadership of Malta's Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Julia, Farrugia Portelli, we have introduced two important tools this year to support Travel & Tourism's, Green/Clean transformation, in line with the UN framework.


In May we launched the world's first online Climate Friendly Travel Diploma, with Malta's Institute of Tourism Studies to begin to train the next generation of leaders to help deliver the transformation to low carbon, SDG linked: Paris 1.5: Climate Friendly Travel at the local level. This program is designed to empower 100,000 young STRONG Climate Champions across all UN States by 2030.


Now, against the backdrop of this year's UN General Assembly, we have launched the STRONG Climate Friendly Travel Registry an online tool for suppliers to record, review and revise their Climate Neutral and Sustainability Ambitions. It also enables consumers to easily check on their performance and make their travel choices accordingly.


Our plan is to work closely with the industry and destinations, most notably with the influential WTTC to help the sector deliver on Climate Friendly Travel and to fulfil the promise of green, clean tourism.


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