Climate change is the most urgent global challenge of our times that affects all spheres of our lives, every economic sector, every region and city. The tourism ecosystem will not only benefit from a cleaner and healthier environment but will also be an important player, contributing to the shared goals of a climate-neutral Europe.
With the European Green Deal, the EU is leading by example by promoting new growth models and by setting climate-neutral goals by 2050. It is already committed to cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030. These goals are being implemented through a transformative and streamlined set of policies and legislative initiatives. The 'Fit for 55' package, proposed by the Commission on 14 July 2021, translates the ambitions of the Green Deal into law by revising and adding new initiatives on climate, energy and transport-related legislation.
A greener EU tourism
Greening European tourism is part of the broader objective to develop a more sustainable and responsible ecosystem, a process involving all players at multi-level governance: industry, destinations, national, regional and local authorities, but also the consumer – the tourist. According to the UN World Travel Organisation, sustainable tourism development "takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities".
Sustainable travel has been steering the European tourism policy for the past years, led by increasing demand and expectations by the travellers and the host communities alike. While the COVID-19 crisis had paralysed travel in the past years, it has been also a unique opportunity to reset, shift the cultural mindset and emerge more resilient.
By stepping up the greening of the EU tourism ecosystem, industry and destinations would not only contribute to CO2 reduction and a better-protected environment but would also benefit from reduced costs and reinforced competitiveness. Responsible tourists would benefit from an improved travel experience while contributing to the well-being of host communities.
EU support in reducing the environmental footprint of tourism
The EU has been supporting and promoting greener tourism for years. Here are some examples of how the EU is facilitating the process.
Sustainable and smart mobility
Promoting sustainable and smart mobility, in line with sustainable and smart mobility strategy and action plan.
Encouraging SMEs to adopt green practices and improve circularity through the uptake of the EU Ecolabel for tourist accommodations and the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS). Also by supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy use, sustainable use of natural resources (water, land), and reducing waste generation (including food waste and single-use plastics).
Encouraging the tourism ecosystem to contribute to the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy, as tourism relies on a healthy ecosystem and its rich resources (for example, ecotourism has close links to the protected areas, such as Natura 2000 or marine protected areas).
Measuring environmental footprint by including sustainability data and indicators on tourism statistics (tourism satellite accounts, the Tourism Dashboard, the upcoming revision of the statistics regulation), sharing best practices on sustainability schemes and measurement tools.
Smart data use
Facilitating data sharing and smart use of data to improve sustainable tourism destination management and to apply innovative digital solutions.
Adapting to climate change
Encouraging tourism businesses and destinations to take part in climate adaptation actions at all levels, in line with the new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, and supporting them with research.
Supporting skills and building the capacity of tourism businesses and destinations to enable them to implement green practices (e.g. Pact for Skills in tourism).
Raising awareness about the advantages of green transition for tourism businesses through the promotion of sustainable destinations and dissemination of best practices in greening tourism. Travel sentiment towards sustainable choices is followed up by the Commission and can be found via EU Eurobarometer.
Best practice examples on green actions in tourism