A call for the hotel industry to take part in climate action

On June 28th and 29th 2016 business leaders and government representatives gathered at the Business and Climate Summit in London. Following the Paris Agreement last December on climate change, this event was the second edition of a now yearly summit focused on the importance of businesses in the global fight to limit global warming under a 2˚C cap.

The hotel sector makes a considerable contribution to economies and its potential to reduce CO2 emissions from hotels worldwide is substantial. With one of the largest growth trajectories among industries, hoteliers have a clear vision of their contribution to GDP in the years to come, but have not defined their role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now is the time to do so.

Why act?

As United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres stressed during the summit, climate action provides a “thread of certainty” much needed by businesses, regulators and investors. Although that statement was targeting the “post-Brexit” situation in the UK, it is also highly relevant to the fast-changing global context which challenges businesses constantly with security threats, political unrest and natural disasters. Setting long term goals on how much CO2 emissions businesses and sectors need to mitigate before 2030 and 2050, provides clarity and transparency to determine future decisions and investment trends.

This clarity not only answers calls to action from climate stakeholders and governments, but is a clear demand from investors. Asset managers and owners such as Aviva and Moody’s now investigate climate risks, ask for transparency and visibility from the companies in their portfolios, and already apply stress tests on the risk exposure of businesses and assets in below-2˚C climate change scenarios. Ambitious and transparent climate action means access to new sources of investment such as green bonds and finance, which must grow from USD 1 billion/year to USD 1 trillion/year by 2030 to achieve global targets.

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Most importantly, the global agenda and priorities of both governments and private sector have never been more aligned: a clear business case is present and the question is no longer “what” but “how”. Whilst governments have to fulfil and report on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs, which represent each country’s official CO2 reduction commitment under UNFCCC), legal requirements for all businesses to align with the Paris agreement are not far down the road. Peter Bakker, CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) made it clear this week he expects decisions from all company boards to align with science-based targets (in line with scientific recommendations) within the next three years.

What needs to be achieved?

How much CO2 emissions are needed to meet those targets? The We Mean Business coalition and CDP have released a new report this week, proposing a figure for the first time: 3.7 billion metric tonnes of CO2 have to be cut every year until 2030 (half a tonne of CO2 for every person each year).

Closer to the hospitality sector, the World Green Building Council has announced its new “Net Zero” project this week, which calls on the global built environment sector to reduce emissions by 84 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050 through the construction of net zero buildings and renovation of existing buildings. This initiative aims at reaching 100% of net zero buildings by 2050.

How to join the movement?

The report released by We Mean Business makes it simple for companies: by committing to the following 5 initiatives, 60% of NIDCs can be met:

  • Adopting science-based targets for your company. The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and its member companies are already looking at how to set targets for the hotel industry on carbon emissions using science-based data.
  • Join the EP100 initiative to work on energy efficiency
  • Commit to sourcing your energy from 100% renewable power with the help of the RE100 initiative
  • Take a step forward to manage deforestation risks by sourcing “deforestation-free” commodities in your supply chain
  • Set an internal price of carbon for your company with the help of the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative (LCTPi)

ITP and Green Hotelier also provide tools and recommendations for any hotelier interested in working on the impacts of its activity on climate change. By creating a common methodology to measure hotel carbon emissions (Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI)) and enabling those emissions to be benchmarked among thousands of properties worldwide on its Hotel Footprinting Tool, ITP offers a level playing field for the industry, but also helps other sectors report more thoroughly on their travel emissions.

Our sector has the capacity, strength and talent required to meet this challenge, and what a great step it would be to see a hotel company share its engagement on climate change at the coming COP 22 in Marrakech this November or at the next Business and Climate Summit in 2017.

About the author

Nicolas Perin has been working on climate change and corporate social responsibility (CSR) since 2009, advising companies and policy makers. After graduating from Paris Dauphine University, he joined Unisfera’s work on the implementation of Rio Conventions with UN agencies, then focused on low carbon and responsible business strategies for the private sector as a national coordinator for APCC, and head of CSR department for A2DM. Nicolas joined ITP as Programme Manager in January 2016.

Tags: 2016 in review, Climate Change, environment, green, sustainability


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