Climate change mitigation in the tourism sector
An excerpt from the UNEP Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector.
Tourists are traveling more often and to more distant destinations, using more energy-intensive, fossil fuel-based transport and the sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution has increased to 5 percent of global emissions. Other unsustainable practices, such as excessive water use, waste generation, and habitat encroachment are threatening ecosystems, biodiversity, and local culture.
But if done right, tourism can be a positive force for both the local economy and the environment. Sustainable Tourism aims to reduce poverty by creating local jobs and stimulating local business, while establishing ecologically sustainable practices that preserve resources and reduce pollution. Currently, only a minimal of tourism profits touches the people living in and near tourist destinations. Increasing local involvement can not only generate income but also encourage communities to protect their environment.
Investing in energy efficiency and waste management can reduce GHG emissions and pollution and also save hotel owners and service providers money. Under the right circumstances, natural areas, biodiversity, and cultural heritage—three of the main reasons people travel in the first place—can all reap the benefits of sustainable tourism.
The sustainability of coastal tourism destinations depends partly on their ability to adapt planning and management practices to the impacts of climate change and also to increase their ability to reduce disaster risks.
Climate Change Mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behavior. Protecting natural carbon sinks like forests and oceans, or creating new sinks through silviculture or green agriculture are also elements of mitigation.
Mitigation by the Tourism sector can be achieved by reducing energy use, through changing travel behavior, by improving energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy, carbon offsetting strategies, sustainable destination planning and management, tour operators’ choice of destinations and packaging of travel products, as well as other changes in business practices.
A number of studies present strategies available for increasing the effectiveness of mitigation activities in relation to tourism and climate change. Best practices from case studies for different stakeholders and local context have been formed as a guide to mitigation tools, covering techniques, policies and measures in various scenarios. Various mitigation strategies in the transportation and accommodation sectors as well as for tour operators, consumers and destinations have long been available and should be implemented.
The overall objective of climate change mitigation strategies, policies and activities in the tourism sector is to contribute to the achievement of “carbon neutrality” in the sector. For hospitality and tourism establishments, “carbon neutrality” can be defined as a set of policies that it uses when it estimates its known greenhouse gas emissions, takes measures to reduce them, and purchases carbon offsets to “neutralize” those emissions that remain. Carbon neutrality signifies an establishment that has a zero net contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This includes all activities directly controlled by the company, including travel, purchasing of goods and services, and daily behavior of staff. Carbon neutrality can be achieved by improving the way the organization operates (e.g. through “green” procurement), by improving efficiency of operations (e.g. communications and meetings) and equipment (e.g. vehicle transport and building). Carbon neutrality also recognizes offsetting as an option (last resort) to achieve full neutrality.
The Tourism Sector is composed of a wide range of businesses, from small, local operations that service a single local market to very large transport, hotel and tour operator companies that serve global markets across entire regions and which sell or facilitate millions or tens of millions of tour packages to foreign destinations each year. The industry provides tourists with products and services such as accommodation, transport, food and drink, attractions to visit, and souvenirs to purchase.
It is clear that the industry shapes demand through its marketing strategies, but consumers (tourists) ultimately make the final choices. Recognizing that tourists have an important role in creating business interest in sustainable tourism products, the sector must consider mitigation options and should be increasingly proactive in addressing climate change.
How can the hospitality industry apply climate mitigation through Renewable Energy? See our next blog post!
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Posted on December 7, 2013, in Eco Conservation, Good Governance, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Tourism and tagged Boracay Island, climate adaptation, climate mitigation, disaster risk reduction, eco-friendly, renewable energy, UNEP, Zero Carbon Resorts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.