At World Travel Market, London this year the focus on World Responsible Tourism Day was on the challenge of decarbonising our industry. Carbon emissions from our fossil-fuelled economies are causing a form of pollution which is hard to clean up and has a long-term impact on the environment and our very existence. The boom in travel and tourism following the end of WWII was facilitated by increasing leisure and boosted by fossil-fuelled aviation, coaches and cars.
Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre spoke at the opening of World Responsible Tourism Day in 2015 and asked whether our industry was likely to behave like an ostrich or a phoenix (watch the video here). This year we invited Kevin back to mark our card five years on. He pointed out that we have not done well, and have behaved more like the ostrich. This year he talked about Responsible Tourism in a Climate emergency and that since 1990 we’ve not reduced total emissions at all.
It is our current emissions which matter. We need to act, take responsibility, and reduce our emissions, at least 10% reductions per year from now and zero emissions by 2030. Kevin argued that off-setting is a scam. The longer we leave it, the harder it will be to adapt. Will the sector be locked into its current model and decline? Or will it show leadership and secure a prosperous future? It is our choice individually and collectively.
Change is rarely all bad, the frost-free growing season will continue to lengthen. But, climate change is driving migration, there are more droughts and heatwaves; hurricanes are becoming stronger and more intense; wildfires are common place and the tundra is thawing, global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100, Indonesia is already moving its capital and several small island states will cease to exist. Read around this more here.
The consequences of climate change are increasingly apparent and resilience is an increasing challenge for our industry. We need to address both the cause of climate change and the consequences through adaptation and mitigation. Action is urgent, it is time to take responsibility and to address decarbonisation of our sector and to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The Responsible Tourism programmes at WTM are focused on solutions and taking responsibility to implement them.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, pointed out that the companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt. Extreme heatwaves are forecast to increase by as much as 80% and the Global Commission on Adaptation urges action now. “Adaptation is not an alternative to a redoubled effort to stop climate change, but an essential complement to it. Failing to lead and act on adaptation will result in a huge economic and human toll, causing widespread increases in poverty and severely undermining long-term global economic prospects.”
WTM London is the largest Responsible Tourism event in the world with 21 RT events over three days, RT provides 20% of the content at the show and some attend only for this content. The Responsible Tourism agenda remains broad, with sessions covering a whole host of issues from decent work and child protection, to the challenge of building sustainable hotels when ownership is separate from operation and the provision of adventures for people with disabilities. The archive of the full 2019 programme can be found here.
The WTM Latin America Responsible Tourism Awards are open for nominations until December 15th, consider applying yourself and encourage others to do so. The categories and application process can be accessed here.