Welcoming the Paris Agreement: hotel sector implications
Published 4th Nov 2016
Today the Paris Agreement, an ambitious global treaty to reduce manmade greenhouse gases, enters into force! In celebration of this historical event, this article answers the key questions on what this treaty is, its implications and the actions Travelife hotels take.
Dr Catherine Wilson, Technical Manager Certification Services
Imagine a world without the great-tourist destinations of the Maldives, the Great Barrier Reef and Venice. An unbearable thought, isn't it? Although, actually, not an unrealistic one, if climate change continues at its current pace.
2015 was the hottest year on record, and 2016 is expected to break another record. One thing is clear though, the scientific consensus, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is agreed, that manmade greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted into the atmosphere are leading to a warming of the planet.
Global warming presents a significant number of concerns to the tourism and hotel sector. For example, tourism resorts which depend on the natural environment, and which thrive on favourable and stable weather, will be affected by more extreme weather events. Or small island states, such as the Maldives, and coastal areas, will be affected by rising sea levels. For ski resorts, such as the Alps, melting of glaciers becomes a potential risk to hotel demand, and for regions affected by increased desertification, water scarcity becomes the pressing challenge.
Globally, tourism accounts for approximately 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions, with the hotel sector generating approximately 21% of these emissions, which is projected to increase by 24% by 2035. The Paris Agreement applies to all sectors. This includes the hotel sector.
But what is the Paris Agreement?
The key aim of the Paris Agreement is to unite and accelerate action and investments needed to tackle the global challenges of climate change. The treaty sets down the legal framework for national governments to drive down carbon emissions, adapt to its impacts and give enhanced support to developing countries, by keeping global temperature increases this century, to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Further, the Paris Agreement unites efforts to further limit the temperature rise even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
...and when will it come into force?
Today! The landmark, and ambitious agreement, was adopted at COP21, the UN climate talks, held in Paris in December 2015. The Paris Agreement enters into force on 4 November 2016. This date is well ahead of COP22, starting in Marrakesh, on 7-18 November 2016, which can now focus on implementation detail.
…and implications for the hotel sector?
The main outcome of the Paris Agreement, is that the scale, speed and action needed to limit carbon emissions is significant, as each country accelerates actions, to meet their official carbon dioxide commitments. Every sector will need to decarbonise, and every hotel will have a key part to play, as change agents, in contributing to society's reduction in carbon emissions, both on site and encouraging behavioural change in their stakeholders, such as suppliers, employees and guests. Whilst climate change is a business risk, it can also be a great business opportunity to reach new markets, enhance reputation and reduce costs.
…. what can my hotel do?
Review how your hotel manages its energy use, using the Travelife checklist criteria 33-48, as a guide. Managing energy efficiently as much as possible will limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from your hotel. Here are 3 examples of managing your hotel's energy use:
- Does your hotel record energy consumption from all sources within the hotel?
- Does your hotel give guests and staff energy saving information and encourage them?
- Does your hotel research and consider low energy alternatives before buying or replacing electrical equipment?
With the tougher targets agreed within the Paris Agreement, it is expected that national governments will implement tougher climate laws and enforcement measures. Businesses should monitor for new legislation that may affect their hotel to reduce compliance and reputational risk.
Plan to carry out economic scenario planning of the impacts that the Paris Agreement's targets will have on your hotel's operating costs. Assess the impact that climate change will have on your hotel services, stakeholders and day-to-day operations, so as to plan ahead and develop appropriate responses.