Earth Day 2024: Climate Action in Your Destination

trees with sun rays peaking through
by Chris Adams
Head of Research & Insights

Many cities and destinations have climate action plans. Destination organizations and the tourism industry need to be active partners. 

When the first Earth Day was organized in 1970, human-caused climate change was already a well-understood phenomenon. April 22, 2024, marks the 54th Earth Day, and now, climate change is no longer a future risk but a present reality. The world is now enduring dramatic warming and impacts on weather systems, and these changes seem to be accelerating. March 2023 marked the 10th consecutive month breaking historic temperature records, and ocean temperatures are rising even faster. 

Few other industries have more risks and responsibilities to take action on climate change than travel and tourism. The record flooding in Dubai, a few days before Earth Day, closed the world’s busiest airport and is just the latest example of real and immediate impacts on our industry. 

Despite some countries making dramatic progress (the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2023 fell to their lowest level since 1879), Earth Day reminds us that we must also rapidly accelerate our efforts. For this and many other important reasons, tourism needs to be engaged and influential in action on climate change. 

The good news: An increasing number of destinations around the world already have a climate change action plan that tourism organizations can support. 

The EPA has helped develop climate action plans for all 50 states and across the U.S., more than 750 mayors and their cities are members of “Climate Mayors,” a dedicated forum committed to taking action. From improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings to shifting to renewable energy, these plans offer important areas of action for the tourism and hospitality industry. Their implementation is supported by significant federal government funding and grants, under the Inflation Reduction Act.

However, in many states and cities, the tourism sector has often not been actively involved in these plans’ development or implementation. With the urgent need for action, this must change. 

As discussed in our white paper, destination organizations are uniquely placed to help empower and coordinate action on climate change by the tourism sector. 

Cover of A guide to Action on Climate Change

Dozens of practical areas of action exist for tourism to make a difference. A Guide to Action on Climate Change'' summarizes and illustrates many of these. From educating visitors on more sustainable choices to working with the food sector on reducing food waste to supporting transportation solutions of the future (e.g.: electric vehicles, light or high-speed rails), the guide offers 28 areas of action, each illustrated with examples of what tourism is already involved in around the world. 

Action on climate change is real and urgent. It is an essential part of future-proofing our industry. Use the guide above to inspire or inform your own plan for action, and if you have examples to share, we would love to hear from you for future iterations of the guide.

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