Tourism and travel make Paris targets unachievable

In the year 2100, the world's population will be flying nine times as many kilometres as in 2015 and the average travel distance for all tourist journeys is set to double over the same period. Aviation, 90% of which is tourism, will not be able to escape a severe reduction in growth, or even no growth, if we are to meet the climate targets. This is according to Paul Peeters, who will be awarded his PhD for his thesis on this subject at TU Delft on Wednesday 15 November.

Enormous growth

The increasing CO2 emissions from worldwide tourism will make it impossible to achieve the Paris climate targets. The cause is the enormous growth in the use of aircraft by holidaymakers and business travellers. By 2100, the world's population is expected to be flying nine times as many kilometres as in 2015 and the average distance covered per journey is set to double. Aviation's share in tourism's CO2 emissions will grow from 50% in 2005 to more than 75% in 2100 even though by far the most journeys will be made by car. These are the calculations of PhD candidate Paul Peeters, who is also a lector at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences. Tourists are currently responsible for around 5% of all CO2 emissions, but this proportion is set to rise significantly.

Negligible effect

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is responsible for reducing emissions by international aviation. But Peeter's thesis shows that the measures the ICAO announced in 2016 will have a negligible effect. Even a combination of stringent measures, such as a 200% tax on tickets, $1,000 per tonne CO2 carbon tax, maximum use of technology, 90% subsidy on renewable biofuels and $200 billion in annual investments in high-speed rail will not result in the sustainable development of tourism in terms of the economy and climate. In order to achieve that, further direct volume measures will be required to keep aviation below its current levels. These could include international agreements on restricting the number of flights at airports. The current debate places too many expectations on the technological development of aviation, but this will never be able to compensate for the growth in volume.


According to Peeters, the most important recommendation for policymakers is to develop policy that enables the volume of aviation to be reduced and with it the growth in the distance travelled. Giving responsibility for climate policy for international aviation to the ICAO, as is currently the case, almost guarantees failure, according to Peeters. The ICAO primarily represents the interests of the aviation industry, which makes it unlikely that it will be capable of reducing the worldwide volume of aviation. For this reason, individual countries also need to take responsibility for the emissions from international flights from their airports.

Engine of the economy?

In 2016, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure published its critical report ‘De mainports voorbij’, raising questions about Schiphol airport's ambitions for growth. The thesis adds a new dimension to the discussion, especially in the medium term. If we intend to achieve the Paris climate targets, aviation cannot escape a significant reduction in growth and even a decline in rich countries. This is hardly good news for the Dutch economy. The thesis demonstrates how remarkable it is that the climate effects of aviation are not taken into account in discussions of growth. Investment decisions about Lelystad, Schiphol and other airports will have an impact for many decades, which makes it relevant to take account of long-term scenarios now.

More information

15 November 2017, 12:30 (informal introductory talk at 12:00), Aula Building, TU Delf
PhD conferral ceremony P.M. Peeters: Tourism's impact on climate change and its mitigation challenges.
Promotors: Prof. W.A.H. Thissen (TPM Faculty, TU Delft) and Prof. V.R. van der Duim (Wageningen University & Research).
Contact Paul Peeters:,, +31 (0)6-23731708
TU Delft Science Information Officer Roy Meijer:, +31 (0)15-2781751, +31 (0)6-14015008.