Biological invasions are responsible for substantial biodiversity declines as well as high economic losses to society and monetary expenditures associated with the management of these invasions.
The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) – home to the world’s tallest peaks, fascinating natural wildlife, and rich cultural heritage – draws millions of tourists each year. From mountaineering to trekking to wildlife safaris and discovering mountain communities’ gastronomic, cultural, and spiritual traditions, the region has much to offer. However, the region’s mountain destinations are highly vulnerable to the real and devastating impacts of climate change – from avalanches to flash floods and landslides which are devastating the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Increased carbon pollution is increasing temperatures and exacerbating the melting of the region’s glaciers. Long-term impacts are contributing to heating the atmosphere beyond 1.5° and resulting in dramatic and abrupt shifts in the surrounding climate and mountain ecosystems. These multiple climate risks are undermining the progress of development and exacerbating climate injustice, with profound effects on the tourism sector.
With tourist numbers set to rise across the region, it is absolutely crucial to improve the sustainability of mountain tourism – to safeguard the natural landscapes and ecosystems, and to protect the communities that rely on them.
Against this backdrop, the Tourism Panel on Climate Change (TPCC) – an independent body of more than 60 climate scientists and tourism experts – has launched its Tourism and Climate Change Stocktake on 11 December 2023 during a global online event. This first sectoral Stocktake has taken a year of research and will provide a current-state assessment of the sector and objective metrics to public- and private-sector decision-makers. The release of the TPCC report has been timed to link to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 28) and the UNFCCC global Climate Stocktake.
With a focus on delivering promises – COP 28 aims to implement agreements and increase ambition and action. The sense of urgency to deliver promises is greatly felt by HKH countries and communities where sustainable mountain tourism presents an important opportunity to address poverty alleviation, support economic development more broadly, and generate much needed investments.
The TPCC report aligns well with UNFCCC’s Synthesis Report of the Global Stocktake, considering where tourism stands on climate action and support, by assessing progress and gaps in critical dimensions of tourism climate actions, including mitigation, adaptation, policy and finance.
Chapter four of the TPCC Stocktake report has a dedicated section that brings in the perspective of the HKH mountain destinations, where the strong need for an integrated assessment of climate risks resulting from multiple climate and tourism interactions and the importance of enabling environment (policies) to attract investment for climate resilient mountain tourism has been highlighted.
Looking ahead, the priority for HKH countries and its communities lies with promoting sustainable mountain tourism that advances climate resilient development and using tourism as a vehicle for strong climate action. This can be achieved through channelling investment into clean energy, water, infrastructure, culture, heritage, education and capacity building, institutional strengthening, and governance.
The TPCC report greatly supports the #HKH2UAE campaign of the HKH countries, which aims to promote the mountain agenda, ambitious climate action and the need for investment in the region.