Well yes it does and it can, tourism contributes around 8% -10% of CO2 emissions.
And a colleague of ours in the Maldives identified 72% of their destination carbon footprint was the flight to and from their resort.
However, over 2020 there are a number of destinations where the loss of tourism has significantly impacted the restoration and preservation of their wildlife and biodiversity, Costa Rica being most recently in the news.
We need to square this circle of harm and benefit. And the way to do that is to be honest about the true range of harm: measuring, assessing, and putting a financial impact value to it, then addressing those harms through offsetting or mitigating through restoring, protecting and rewilding to not just an equal value but greater than the harm cost.
A 2019 Science journal study revealed that 83 per cent of the world’s cultivable land is used to feed livestock. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, meat consumption accounts for around 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and there is now broad consensus among scientists that stopping fuel emissions alone will not be enough to meet the climate targets outlined in the Paris agreement.
We at TLC are not rampant vegetarians, but we get that certain animal products may need to be considered a little more carefully, just taking beef off the diet makes a dramatic change in CO2, and that 80% more powerful global warming gas, methane. My Welsh business partner says go for more lamb, but she would because the Welsh love their sheep. Your choice, but little changes, by lots of us, make a world of difference.
The awareness that every business is dependent on nature, is key to putting an appropriate value to that resource. You can’t keep taking out without putting back. Our position is that we are now in such a deficit, that just being neutral to climate, biodiversity, water; is not enough. You have to put back a little bit more, so that you become Good for People Planet and Prosperity. It is not an eco-warriors dream, there’s a sound economic position here, a position that consumers are willing to pay a premium towards.
The Biden administration plans to boost the figure it will use to assess the damage that greenhouse gas pollution inflicts on society to $51 per ton of carbon dioxide. But the number could reach as high as $125 per ton.
The US Interagency Working Group also set a $1,500-per-ton cost for methane emissions and $18,000 for nitrous oxide.
Tourism can lead the way by asking our customers to “offset” the Carbon and other Green House Gasses, and harm their visit does to the climate, biodiversity and cultural heritage. This customer based offset can be readily identified and if the resort or destination chooses, it can be applied as an “opt-out” of the bill, like the service charge in a restaurant. Our TLC review of research identified that across a range of hospitality products, and even RevPAR on hotel rooms, customers are willing to pay a premium for sustainability.
“Tourism has been described as the world’s largest transfer of resources from rich to poor, dwarfing international aid,” BBC
“the largest voluntary transfer of cash from the rich to the poor, the ‘haves’ to ‘have nots’, in history”. Even if one allows for considerable “leakage” Guardian newspaper
UNWTO “The sudden fall in tourism cuts off funding for biodiversity conservation. Some 7% of world tourism relates to wildlife, a segment growing by 3% annually. The impact on biodiversity and ecosystems is critical. In many African destinations, wildlife accounts for up to 80% of visits, and tourism revenues enable marine conservation efforts. Several examples of community involvement in nature tourism show how communities, including indigenous peoples, have been able to protect their cultural and natural heritage while creating wealth and improve their wellbeing. #conservation#tourism#biodiversity
Overall the report found that food-system emissions represented 34 percent of total greenhouse gas output.
About half of these emissions were carbon dioxide, chiefly from land use—mainly carbon losses from deforestation and degradation of organic soils—as well as energy from steps like packaging, transportation and processing.
A further third of emissions were from methane—which is 28 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over a 100-year period—released by livestock like cows, sheep and goats, as well as from rice production and in the disposal of biowaste.
On the 5th June 2021 – World Environment Day – the UN will launch its Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. “The main aim is to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide,” said Tim Christophersen at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP),
“we’re at a stage now where conservation is no longer enough. We also need to heavily invest in restoration.”
Assessing and Auditing your natural assets is part of the Harmony approach. We combine natural assets like biodiversity, air, water and land, with community and heritage assets. To understand how actions and activity in hospitality, tourism and development draws on those assets.
And what the consumer can, and should do, to protect those assets for future generations of guests and travellers
Ecosystem Accounting is not easy but it’s great to see it recently adopted by the UN! ———————— “The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) constitutes an integrated and comprehensive statistical framework for organizing data about habitats and landscapes, measuring the ecosystem services, tracking changes in ecosystem assets, and linking this information to economic and other human activity.”
The United Nations Statistical Commission adopted the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting at its 52nd session in March 2021.
The UN’s decision to promote the assessment of natural capital as a way to understand a nations/ regions wealth beyond GDP is extremely welcome.
Countries and destinations seeking to reopen to tourism need to price into their destination, the value of their gorgeous natural places, their culture and their heritage. This adds a price premium to a destination, but we know luxury and responsible travellers are happy to pay this premium when they know your destination puts that back into the environment, and protecting and preserving your heritage.