How to reduce your CO2 emissions (a practical guide)

This practical guide helps you reduce your CO2 emissions as a tour operator and commit to the Glasgow Declaration for Climate action in Tourism.

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Sustainability | 2 comments

Glasgow Declaration

On November 4th, 2021, the ‘Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism’ launched at the UN climate change conference COP26. It increased the urgency about the need to accelerate climate action in tourism. The pledge commits to halve emissions by 50% by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.

The Glasgow Declaration presents a new, very bold, path towards climate accountability. And it’s clear we need one, as the earth is warming up and the consequences of global warming are more visible than ever. Think about:

  • Extreme bush fires in Australia and (South) America last year
  • Flooding in Venice
  • Heavy hurricane season in the Caribbean
  • Extreme heats and rain falls in Europe

Background information CO2 management

Learn more about managing your carbon footprint

Direct influence

Global warming has a direct influence on the tourism industry. This means we have an interest and responsibility in taking action and preventing the earth of warming up even further. In order to protect the future tourism industry, we need to start managing our carbon footprint. We need to stop, or at least slow down, global warming and keep our tourism destinations safe and healthy.

Taking action

The Glasgow Declaration developed 5 shared pathways for every company to follow. This ensures climate action is aligned across the entire tourism industry and that together, we can make an actual difference.

Pathway 1: Measure

Measure and disclose all your travel and tourism-related emissions. This includes mapping all your offset with the purpose to gain insight in what you actually emit. It’s a transparent and accessible baseline assessment.

Carbon measurement blueprint

Intrepid created a carbon measurement blueprint for tour operators to support them in measuring their footprint.

Pathway 2: Decarbonise

Focus on reducing your CO2 emissions to accelerate tourisms decarbonisation. Focus on:

Set and deliver targets to reduce your offset.

Pathway 3: Regenerate

Besides cutting down on your CO2 emissions; restore and protect ecosystems simultaneously. You want to directly contribute to the solution and support nature’s ability to draw down carbon and safeguard biodiversity.

Compensating CO2 by planting new forests

Pathway 4: Collaborate

The entire tourism industry needs to work together in order for the emissions to reach net-zero by 2050. This program relies on collaboration. It expects you to join initiatives and share best practices with other stakeholders to reach your own objectives.

Pathway 5: Finance

When writing your CO2 reduction plan, make sure you have sufficient (financial) resources and capacity to achieve your targets. It does not have to be expensive. So, make smart choices and invest in necessary, long-term aspects such as training and research.

Inspiring future perspective from Sarah Pollok (Journalist NZ Herald)

If the declaration goes according to plan, the advantages aren’t just confined to the environment, but those who live, travel and work in countries around the world.

The era of greenwashing could come to a close as new levels of transparency help people see what operators and organisations are practicing what they preach.

Meanwhile, the focus on regenerative practices and collaboration with local communities creates opportunities for social and natural ecosystems to thrive.

Practical actions to reduce CO2 emissions

The declaration talks about securing strong actions to support the global commitment of reaching net-zero as soon as possible. But what does this practically mean for tour operators? What are the quick wins to lower your carbon footprint? Below tips are practical actions you can start with to reduce your own CO2 emissions.

1. Book more sustainable flights

International transport is one of the main contributors to the high CO2 emission of the tourism industry. We can’t avoid flying all together, but we can attempt to lower our footprint. Book direct flights to reduce additional emissions by landing and take-off. And also select responsible airlines who make use of a new fleet, efficient routing and/or biofuels.

Choose alternative modes of transport

2. Choose alternative modes of transport

As transport is a high contributor, also focus on choosing alternative modes of transport in the destination. To start off, avoid domestic flights when possible and exchange for local transport. This can either be public transport or private. But for the latter, make sure you maintain your cars well for less emission.

3. Work with sustainable accommodations

Accommodations also greatly contribute to the tourism footprint, and they can also make a difference. Book accommodations that are committed to sustainability and reducing their footprint. Work with those who:

If accommodations don’t comply yet, support them in making sustainable changes!

Indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations

Learn more about which aspects to take into account when checking and selecting sustainable accommodations.

4. Create a sustainable office

Besides your tourism operations, you also have an office that is a source of CO2 emissions. Lower your office footprint by switching to renewable energy. Also implement switching off lights and equipment after office hours or when not in use and reduce waste such as paper and plastic. Thereby, also encourage virtual meetings where possible and offer sustainable travel commute options.

Offer carbon-free travel experiences

5. Offer carbon-free travel experiences

To slow global warming, we need to lower our emissions. But who said this can’t also enhance the customer experience at the same time? By developing carbon-free travel experiences, you’re offering customers slow-travel that doesn’t disturb the environment. And it allows them to better experience the destination and emits little to zero emissions. Examples are:

  • Canoeing
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Sailing
  • Horse riding

Benefits of carbon-free travel experiences

Learn more about the benefits of selecting carbon-free travel experiences for your travellers.

6. Promote sustainable trips to travellers

You can’t lower your emissions if you don’t involve your customers. Raise awareness and help your customers gain insight in their own footprint. Make them aware and then support them in making better, sustainable choices. For example, a train ride instead of a domestic flight and reducing their plastic use. Guide them towards becoming a responsible traveller. Provide them with the knowledge and options to reduce their own footprint.

Sign the Glasgow Declaration

Rebalancing the relationship of tourism with nature is essential for a future in tourism. Restoring nature and reducing our negative impact will lead the road to recovery post-covid and beyond. Are you ready to contribute to the decarbonisation of the tourism industry? Sign the Glasgow Declaration commit to reduce your emissions. To write a climate action plan and to follow the five pathways of the declaration.

Become a signatory

By signing you commit to the following

“We declare our shared commitment to unite all stakeholders in transforming tourism to deliver effective climate action. We support the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. We will consistently align our actions with the latest scientific recommendations, so as to ensure our approach remains consistent with a rise of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.”


  1. Jeremy Gane

    This is an excellent overview and call to action for tour operators.

    • Anne de Jong

      Thank you for your positive feedback Jeremy, very much appreciated!


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About <a href="" target="_self">Anne de Jong</a>

About Anne de Jong

Anne is a passionate change maker and fascinated by the tourism industry. Wanting to contribute to a futureproof tourism industry, she supports tour operators and destinations to become more resilient and sustainable.

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