Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, has started measuring and monitoring the carbon emissions that directly result from tourist activity as part of its new sustainable tourism strategy, becoming the first city in the world to do so.

Valencia has been making moves toward a green future for years, and sustainability is a pillar of the city’s tourism strategy. Visit Valencia, the city’s tourism board, recently carried out a study that measured the sources of carbon emissions from tourist activity across ten areas, including water management, waste, transport to and around the city, and accommodation. The research found that tourism accounted for 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019 and that 81% of tourist emissions came from transport to the city. Transport within the city added less than 1%.

View of Valencia Old Town at twilight. Spain
Valencia's old town ©Ivan Nesterov/Alamy Stock Photo

The study also found that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by tourist activity is equivalent to one third of the carbon footprint generated by the food consumption of the city’s residents.

“In 2015, when the Valencia 2020 Strategic Plan began to take shape, the city made a commitment to develop a sustainable tourism model that was more integrated and more accessible for both citizens and visitors, while also generating economic wealth for the city,” Emiliano García, councillor for tourism of the Valencia City Council, told Lonely Planet. “The city participates in environmental projects at a European level and also works at a local level to better the city’s sustainability credentials incorporating a host of local stakeholders. Through this framework, the agreement with Global Omnium arose. Global Omnium is a Valencian water management company, whose pioneering technology enabled us to calculate our carbon footprint generated by tourism and, subsequently, audit it. This project has undoubtedly put Valencia at the forefront of sustainable destination management.”

500px Photo ID: 51385986 -
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia. ©Xavier Loh/500px

Valencia is striving to become a carbon-neutral destination by 2025 and to make the city the world’s leading tourist destination with zero environmental impact. Future plans include determining whether the public transport system can go fully electric and adding more plants to the city’s parks to absorb carbon dioxide. 

“Measures will focus on reducing the direct consumption of petroleum-derived fuels; improving energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption from non-renewable sources; promoting the consumption of local products, goods and services; enhancing the local economy and the circular economy; monitoring the carbon footprint of each establishment and its actions, as well as the measures adopted for its reduction and compensation, in addition to taking advantage of the natural environment's capacity in order to develop projects to absorb further CO2 emissions,” García told Lonely Planet.

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