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Climate Change: Tourism's Roles in Promoting Climate Action
Every week, the TIES team will publish a discussion article focusing on current issues, challenges and opportunities related to ecotourism, which will hopefully inspire comments, actions, and lively discussions from our members. This week, we are excited to introduce our first issue: climate change and tourism’s role in promoting climate action. What do you think about the relationship between climate change and the tourism industry? Do you know any best practice examples of tourism organizations or leaders implementing carbon mitigation practices? Do you have your own examples of successful climate action? Head over to TIES-EXCHANGE to add your comments and ideas related to this topic! (Member log-in required)
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP18) in Qatar starts today, and in the next two weeks discussions will be held to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The UN climate talks shed light to the urgent needs for bold climate action, and this is a perfect time for all of us in the tourism industry to evaluate the challenges and opportunities to promote positive climate action through tourism.
Tourism and Climate Change
The tourism industry, directly and indirectly, is both a cause of and significantly impacted by climate change. Infrastructure required to maintain attractive tourism destinations inevitably involve energy and resource consumption, putting added pressure on the local ecosystems. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), transport-related carbon emissions account for 2% of all carbon emissions worldwide, and are rising fast. The EU Airline emissions trading system, where they receive tradable allowances and cap their emissions, is an example of regional efforts to help the tourism sector curb its emissions.
In many tourism sectors, on the other hand, climate conditions define the length and quality of a tourism season by being the principal driver of seasonality in tourism demand, thus making winter sport and water-based destinations the "canary in the coal mine" for climate change impacts on tourism. Climate change also affects environmental resources that serve as tourist attractions and activities, and often constitutes the resource on which tourism is built. Nature-based tourism, therefore, is particularly sensitive to climate-induced environmental changes.
At the same time, the tourism industry is also faced tremendous opportunities to inspire positive action: from implementing climate-friendly management systems and strategies to reduce carbon emissions, to engaging travelers to promote responsible choices such as the use of public transportation and environmentally-friendly tours.
Mitigating Climate Footprint
Mitigation (a strategy seeking to reduce green house gas emissions), as well as adaptation, is a critical part of tourism businesses and destinations’ climate policies and practices. The following are just a few examples of positive climate action by tourism industry stakeholders.
- Basecamp Foundation, a non-profit tourism organization creating sustainable destinations, works toward the mitigation of impacts of climate change by planting trees on leased land, teaching interested parties about the carbon reduction function of trees, spreading global as well as environmental awareness, and teaching future generations about the importance of trees.
- Intrepid Travel organizes small group adventure trips with an emphasis on sustainability practices. In particular, through their Carbon Management Plan, they have achieved their goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by offsetting their global business carbon emissions, their trips and flights and thereby being able to donate money to certified carbon abatement projects.
- Rios Tropicales, an eco-adventure company that operates throughout Costa Rica, has worked with the National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO) on reforestation efforts, and has, in partnership with UNEP, pledged to plant 30,000 trees to contribute to the reforesting of the rainforest as part of a worldwide UN-sponsored tree-planting program.
Business Approaches to Climate Change
The tourism sector can learn from related efforts in other industries that incorporate progressive ways of mitigating climate footprint:
- The UNEP Green Economy Initiative works towards "improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities";
- The Environmental Profit and Loss (E P&L) accounting method, introduced by Jochen Zeitz with Puma, which calculates a company's environmental, social and economic impacts; and
- Sustainable Capitalism, advocated by Generation Investment Management, seeks to "maximize long-term economic value creation to address real needs while considering all costs and stakeholders".
Ideas, comments, questions? Join our discussions on TIES-EXCHANGE! *If you're not yet a member of TIES, and would like to access TIES-EXCHANGE and other member networking and learning resources, please consider joining TIES today.