The Tourism Sector's Impact on Carbon Emissions: An Empirical Analysis of Transitioning G20 Countries

The Tourism Sector's Impact on Carbon Emissions: An Empirical Analysis of Transitioning G20 Countries

Gülsüm Akarsu, Fanny Saruchera
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4303-0.ch003
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The tourism sector is generally perceived as a green industry because of its seemingly clean value chain activities. However, despite these perceptions, there have been doubts regarding the environmental impacts of tourism. Past studies have considered these environmental effects due to increasing concerns about global warming and climate change. This chapter attempts to analyze the effects of tourism value chain activities on carbon emissions in the context of the environmental Kuznets curve for G20 countries using a ten-year dataset. The results confirmed the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis. The findings indicate that, despite increases in energy use and investment inflow, tourism activities decrease carbon emissions. The study concluded that tourism sector activities, foreign trade, and labor force participation all have statistically significant favorable effects on carbon emissions. Given the growing global transitions within the sector, the study reckons the sector's need to focus on sustainable tourism as a development and improvement strategy.
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Tourism and travel sector has been one of the sectors severely impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the contribution of tourism and travel to global economic growth cannot be ignored (Balli, Sigeze, Manga, Birdir, & Birdir, 2019). The sector’s value chain activities have undoubtedly contributed directly and indirectly to global economic growth, employment, infrastructure, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Balance of Payments (BoP), among other contributions. Over the years, tourism has been generally perceived to be green, and there have been growing literature regarding the promotion of green tourism (Font & Tribe, 2001); the development of green tourism strategy (Chengcai et al., 2017) and green innovations for the sector (Gavrilović & Maksimović, 2018).

Despite these perceptions and developments, certain of the tourism sector’s value chain activities have been adversely affecting the environment. For instance, some of the tourism activities such as sea or beach activities have ranked among the top causes of environmental pollution. Other activities have also resulted in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which lead to climate change and global warming (Ehigiamusoe, 2020; Khan et al., 2020). The tourism sector has had a ‘mixed bag’ of both fortunes and misfortunes. In this context, the 2019 tourism contribution to global GDP was 10.3%, and its share of total exports was 6.8%.1 Between 2009-2013, Lenzen et al. (2018) calculated tourism’s carbon footprint share out of global GHG emissions as 8% and the study showed a worrying trend that carbon footprint is increasing over time. Travel related carbon emissions of the tourism sector is three out of four of total emissions caused by tourism activities (World Tourism Organization and International Transport Forum [WTO & ITF], 2019). In 2016, this accounted for 5% of world emissions related to energy consumption (WTO & ITF, 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Global Warming: Rise in the average temperature of the Earth as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change: Long-term change of climatic conditions (such as temperature, precipitation) in a region.

G20: Together with the European Union, 19 major developed and emerging countries form the Group of Twenty.

Renewable Energy: Energy obtained from renewable sources which are nondepletable, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.

Sustainable Tourism: Tourism which considers all current and future impacts and meets the expectations of tourists, host countries, environment, and industry.

Panel Data: Multidimensional data contains both time series and cross-section dimension and showing a sample of cross-sections over time.

Environmental Kuznets Curve: Curve showing the relationship between environmental quality and income per capita.

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