For those of us living in the UK, there hasn’t been much sign of global warming this year as we head into the autumn seemingly without ever having had a summer. Nevertheless, the overwhelming consensus is that climate change is a reality, and that we will all have to adapt accordingly. With tourism one of the industries most likely to be affected as the climate changes (positively in some destinations, negatively in many others), and air travel an activity much criticised by the environmental lobby, ‘Tourism responding to the challenge of climate change’ has been made the theme of this years World Tourism Day. (It’s on Saturday 27 September, by the way).
The main event of the day is a meeting to be held in Peru. A Think Tank will look at putting the Davos Declaration (the result of a meeting on tourism and climate change which I blogged about last year) into action. This Declaration calls on tourism stakeholders to adapt, to mitigate and use new technology, and secure financing for the poorest countries to face the challenge of climate change. Since the Davos meeting, a major report on climate change and tourism has been issued, giving an overview of policy and management responses of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of tourism’s emissions. The Report also summarizes the main results of a series of events focused on climate change and tourism, which took place in the second of half of 2007.
At the Davos meeting and the various events following it, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has tried to highlight the need for tourism to respond to the challenge of climate change, both in mitigation (taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of travel and tourism) and adaptation (destinations which will experience changing climate having to adapt their tourism offering accordingly). But it has also emphasised the value of tourism, in generating wealth, creating jobs, and contributing to the alleviation of poverty. With air travel the greatest contributor (around 40%) to tourism’s approximately 5% share of global carbon emissions, then reducing the amount we fly for holidays would have the greatest effect in reducing the carbon footprint of tourism. But long-haul trips are often to countries that are home to the planet’s poorest populations, which will already be among the first victims of warming. These communities would be doubly affected if deprived of the economic benefits of tourism. A statement from the UNWTO General Assembly in November 2007 said that recommendations for action on climate change " "should not discriminate against developing countries by creating obstacles to their economic development and in particular of those developing countries located at long distance from tourists generating markets".
The balancing act between reducing the carbon impact of tourism but keeping it as a vibrant industry which brings vital foreign exchange to many poor parts of the world is one which many commentators wrestle with. (Taking fewer trips, but staying longer in your destination, is a frequent suggestion I quite like the sound of). Research on the complex issues involved is increasing, and Australia has just published it’s own data on the carbon footprint of its tourist industry. So here comes the plug. To keep up to date with all the issues relating to tourism and climate change, why not check out CABI’s subscription site Leisuretourism.com? Or for all the wider aspects of climate change, the new Environmental Impact website will be launching next week.
But in the meantime, why not celebrate World Tourism Day by booking an (environmentally friendly) holiday?