Towards A Zero-Emission Travel Industry: The Path to Sustainability is Shared

By Prabhjeet Singh, President, India & South Asia at Uber

Travel industry is always at the forefront of innovation and as we look at building a zero-emission future, this industry has to play a leading role. Here is why.

Leading a sustainable business is and should be one of the top agendas for travel companies.

As emphasised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 Report, the urgency of climate change is more evident than ever. Travel and tourism, alone, is a key contributor both to global GDP and global emissions contributing 8 to 11% of total greenhouse gases every year.

However, transitioning from the current pathway to net-zero emissions will require significant investment, commitment, and innovations by all stakeholders.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), aviation alone represents around 17% of the total carbon emissions by the travel and tourism industry. To support that transition, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) recently  launched the Making the Business Case for Climate Smart Investments: Guidelines for the Tourism Sector in 2021. It addresses challenges the private sector faces in financing climate mitigation actions in the tourism sector. The guidelines recommend adopting low-emission technologies and behaviour change in tourists. It also recommends companies to optimise resource use, reduce their operation costs, and increase their efficiency while improving their environmental performance and tackling climate change.

The Travel & Tourism industry is strongly affected by impacts of climate change, but like many other sectors, it’s also an important emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG). Thus, it actively contributes to climate change. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to decarbonize the sector as quickly as possible and reach net zero by 2050.

How the Travel & Tourism Industry responded so far and why does it need to do more?

Let’s now look at the ongoing efforts of the industry to mitigate the risks of emissions and pollution and why we need to sharpen our focus on doing more. Since travellers have become highly aware of the adverse effects of the travel industry on the environment, a considerable shift in the consumer behaviour patterns has been noticed among tourists. Therefore, we need to shift towards more sustainable travel options immediately.

According to a 2021 survey, 78% of Indian travellers expect tourism service providers to offer more sustainable travel options and are more conscious towards sustainable travel practices. Rising awareness of ‘Sustainable Tourism’ and ‘Green Travel’ are encouraging trends indicating a brighter future.

Tourism and hospitality industries are responding to consumers’ demand for sustainable travel and reimagining the future through innovative ideas to reduce their environmental impact such as eliminating plastic, banning single-use plastic, greater acceptability of green ideas in the aviation sector, and promoting water-saving practices.

American airline giant, Delta, announced in 2020 that it would commit $1billion to become the first carbon-neutral airline globally — pledging funds to use less fuel and offset its carbon emissions by “investing in forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture, and other negative emissions technologies”. has collaborated with various partners, such as the GSTC, Green Tourism, the EU Ecolabel, and Sustainalize to produce its badge and methodology.  It’s focused on five key areas of impact: 1. waste, 2. energy and greenhouse gases, 3. water, 4. supporting local communities, and 5. protecting nature. Since the launch of the badge, more than 600,000 properties globally have shared their sustainability information with the platform; of those, 57,000 are receiving the first version of the Travel Sustainable badge.

While it’s still early days, this is an important first step in providing more sustainability information in a transparent manner to consumers, ultimately making it easier for them to start making more sustainable travel choices. In 2020, China, the United States, the EU27, India, Russia, and Japan remained the world’s largest CO2 emitters, as per the Emissions Database for global atmospheric research. Due to its ongoing efforts, India has now managed to reduce its emissions by 5.9%.

Travellers have become highly aware of the adverse effects of the travel industry on the environment.


New Age Businesses are leading the way in the sharing economy. Here is how we should look at Sustainability.

In the last decade, mobility choices have been disrupted and reimagined with the meteoric rise in the ride-sharing industry, dominated by global players. The pandemic has led to the rise of the sharing economy which is emerging as a popular economic model improving efficiency, sustainability, and community. Our vision is to be a part of the solution and drive a green recovery. We seek to build a more sustainable future of mobility by moving more people needing on-demand services with fewer, fuller, and more efficient vehicle trips.

A recent study by NITI Aayog estimates that India can save up to 64% of anticipated energy needs for road-based passenger transport and 37% of carbon emissions in 2030—if it develops a shared, connected, electric-powered mobility system and that the widespread adoption of EVs could potentially save the country $57 billion in annual energy costs.

Mobility companies can play a vital role

Future of mobility is electric, multimodal & shared
This will lead to reduction in travel time, stress, noise pollution, and carbon emissions along with a reduction in the cost of travel, as compared to that on-road, depending on the cost of fuel at that time.

Encourage peer-to-peer vehicle sharing
Peer-to-peer vehicle sharing is part of an emerging trend of the sharing economy, in which consumers can rent vehicles from their neighbours or peers. This model of sharing could increase privately owned vehicles’ asset utilisation rates.

Enable seamless transit for first/last mile connectivity
In six of our top metro cities, Uber riders can see transit options e.g. Metro, buses and can plan a seamless multi-modal journey. We believe that is the future of urban mobility where a rider should be able to do a multi-leg, multi-form factor journey from point A to point B at the tap of a button, including public transit.

Reduce personal car ownership
Today a car is the most expensive asset after a house but it stays idle 96% of the time. At Uber, we imagine a world for our children where not everyone needs to own a car and should be able to rely on a shared vehicle for all their needs.

The future of mobility is electric, multimodal and share.

Transition to electric mobility—opportunities and challenges

A study by ASSOCHAM and EY published in 2018 states the EV market was expected to record double-digit growth rates with the rise in sales volume annually in India till 2020. Despite electric vehicles not being mainstream, stricter emission norms, reducing battery prices, and increasing consumer awareness are driving EV adoption in India

The report by ASSOCHAM also points out that the global telematics market is poised to grow exponentially, with 104 Mn new cars expected to have some form of connectivity by 2025. The demand incentives provided under FAME II, the launch of state policies, rising fuel prices, tightening emissions laws, and increasing awareness of the green environment are a few factors making the sector attractive to larger automobile players and financial investors. The spike in demand for EVs, led primarily due to a conducive regulatory framework, has in turn attracted overseas investments into the sector.

A recent report by RBSA Advisors highlighted that India’s electric vehicle (EV) market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 90 percent in this decade to touch $150 billion by 2030. In terms of penetration, EV sales account for barely 1.3 percent of total vehicle sales in India during 20-21. However, the market is growing rapidly and is expected to be worth more. India’s shift to shared, electric and connected mobility could help the country save nearly one giga-tonne of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.


Sustainability is definitely a team sport. We’re all in it together to fight against carbon emissions and play our part in reducing our carbon footprint towards a green recovery. The need of the hour is to start with the small changes to set the flywheel in motion. As we face difficult times with the COVID-19 and the climate change crises, it is time for us as an industry to take a stand and inspire others with our actions. The travel industry must change to strive in the long-term and has the chance to inspire others by doing so.

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