Speaking at the opening of the 12th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in Istanbul, Turkey, Ms. Dowdeswell outlined in stark terms the serious consequences for the tourism sector if the international convention to combat climate change was not implemented.
She asked delegates to "imagine your holiday brochures picturing beaches submerged, shorelines eroded and ocean views not only through windows but in your basements as well". She elaborated that "some of today's island destinations might not just disappear from the tourist map but from the geographic map altogether."
With climate negotiators meeting in Bonn, Germany and with the Kyoto Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention little more than 50 days away, the timing of Ms. Dowdeswell's statement was no accident. She urged the WTO and the tourism sector to join with UNEP and the insurance industry in a global alliance to counter the fossil fuel lobby which is working to delay implementation of the UN Convention on Climate Change. "I take time today to focus on climate change because it is in your interest to determine what climate change means for the tourism sector and should you not care for the implications, then it is time to join with other allies in the battle for climate protection," she challenged.
Ms. Dowdeswell also used the occasion of the General Assembly to renew cooperation with the WTO. Together with the WTO Secretary-General, Mr. Francesco Frangialli, Ms. Dowdeswell signed a four-point action plan on tourism and the environment for 1998-1999. The new accord focuses on meeting the challenge of sustainable tourism development.
Under the terms of the agreement, UNEP and the WTO will collaborate on a conference on coastal management and tourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to be held in 1998. They will also work together on pilot testing of coastal award schemes for improving the environment.
Further areas of cooperation include a study on the tourism impact of environmental taxes and the updating of the joint publication Development of National Parks and Protected Areas for Tourism. Cooperation between UNEP and WTO began 15 years ago in 1982.
For more information regarding the WTO/UNEP MOU contact:
UNEP's Industry and Environment Centre, Paris, France
Telephone: +33-1-4437 1441, Fax: +33-1-4437-1474
In Nairobi, contact:
Robert Bisset, UNEP Media and Communications Officer
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,
UNEP News Release 1997/63