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11 Mar, 2008

‘Green Passport’ Campaign Launched At ITB 2008

Green travel tips for the world’s growing number of international tourists were launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In this dispatch:










Berlin/Nairobi, 7 March 2008 – Green travel tips for the world’s growing number of international tourists were launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The internet-based campaign, “Green Passport”, aims to raise tourists’ awareness of their potential to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible holiday choices.

Achim Steiner, UN-Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Tourism, the world’s biggest industry, is booming. By 2020, the number of international arrivals by air and by sea could reach 1.6 billion annually. This growth brings the prospect of income and economic development to countless tourist destinations in rich and poor countries alike. The challenge is to manage this growth sustainably. Governments have a key role to play, but so too do individuals and families when planning and going on holiday,” he said.

“Many consumers are now making green domestic choices from sourcing electricity from renewable sources and choosing eco-friendly investments up to buying leaner and greener cars. Packing a Green Passport along with airline tickets, the swimming costume and the sun lotion means tourists no longer need to leave their green credentials at home but can make them part of the holiday of a life-time,” added Mr Steiner.

Stefanos Fotiou, head of UNEP’s tourism unit, said: “By browsing the Green Passport web site consumers will be able to find practical tips to help them reduce their environmental and social footprint while they are on vacations. Tourists will discover that traveling green is not as hard as they imagined.”

In 2007, international tourist arrivals reached nearly 900 million and by the end of the decade this number is expected to reach more than one billion. As tourist numbers grow, so will their demand for energy, water, and natural resources to support their holidays.

“There are some encouraging signs in terms of market response to the problem. Tourists are increasingly expressing concern about the quality of the environment at their holiday destinations,” said Fotiou. “However, there is clearly a gap to fill in order to shift from discussions on responsible holidays to concrete actions.”

The new UNEP campaign will provide information to tourists to help them prevent some of their impacts by avoiding certain behaviors that greatly affect the environment and the society. The green travel tips are addressing all the holiday’s cycle, from travel planning and packaging to the way back home. For example, the campaign encourages tourists to:

<> Choose responsible service providers

<> Reduce the consumption of energy while on the road or in their hotel

<> Buy locally made and environmentally friendly souvenirs

The Campaign has been launched by UNEP, jointly with and the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning and the Brazilian Ministries of Environment and Tourism. It is an initiative of the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development, firmly rooted in the move to accelerate a global shift towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP) that emerged from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg in 2002.

The Green Passport web site is one outcome of this process. The web site, developed in English, Portuguese and French, together with additional communication tools (website and leaflet/brochure), is now available for dissemination by new partners to raise awareness in the tourism community. For more information please visit: www.unep.fr/greenpassport



[The following statement was released by the tourism watchdog group EQUATIONS at the ITB March 2008.]

Global climate change is probably the most severe environmental threat in the 21st century and will affect basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health and environment. Alarm bells have started to ring worldwide for many important aspects of life like food, water, ecosystems, extreme weather conditions and abrupt and irreversible environmental changes.

In 2003, the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) held its first Summit on Climate Change and Tourism in Djerba, Tunisia, which set a proactive call for response from different sectors such as national governments, tourism companies, academic institutions, NGOs and private and public sectors in the form of the Djerba Declaration. It recognised the complex relationship between tourism and climate change, the existing and rapidly worsening impact of climate change on tourism development in sensitive ecosystems and also the contribution of tourism industry to climate change.

Today climate change is a top issue for policymakers around the world and tourism is becoming an important element of the discussions. This is because climate represents a key resource for tourism and climate related risks in the form of changing weather patterns and extreme conditions can have a serious impact on travel patterns.

On the other hand the tourism industry itself is a contributor to climate change by generating greenhouse gas emissions through travellers’ consumption of transport services, notably road and air transport, and high levels of energy consumption like air conditioning, heating and lighting in tourism establishments. The aviation industry is the biggest threat as it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, growing at a rate of 5% per year and contributing to 3% of global emissions. Air travel, particularly long haul international flights emitting greenhouse gases at high cruising altitudes, adds substantially to climate change effects.

The earth’s biodiversity has also not been spared. There is a two way relationship between biodiversity and climate: biodiversity is threatened by human-induced climate change and climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either through shifting habitat or changing life cycles.

The relentless expansion of the tourism industry is a major cause for concern. Tourism continues to pervade sensitive and fragile ecosystems such as coasts and islands, especially in the developing nations, leading to undesirable impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity. Even Multilateral Environmental Agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity also continue to promote tourism as a market based conservation scheme in coastal and island ecosystems without application of the precautionary principle, as suggested by the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus in the Eight Conference of Parties to the Convention. To illustrate:

Communities that live on coastal areas and small island states face serious risks due to sea level rise. They face the brunt of displacement through expansion and establishment of tourism facilities on the one hand. On the other, their livelihoods such as fishing are affected due to the fact that ecosystems like coral reefs, habitat of a great variety of fish populations are dying as a result of climate change impacts.

In mountainous regions, the melting of glaciers poses the risk of floods and threatens the lives and livelihoods of communities, which are dependent on agriculture. Forest diversity is also threatened by climate change which in turn threatens the livelihood of forest dependent communities. A significant stretch of the Mediterranean coast faces desertification due to decrease in rain and rise in temperatures over long periods of time, posing a threat to tourism and thus impacting local communities reliant on tourism.

EQUATIONS calls upon governments to take serious and urgent steps for the implementation of conventions, protocols and resolutions related to climate change. We urge them to take cognisance of tourism and its closely linked transportation and aviation industries as significant factors contributing to climate change, and therefore to formulate international and domestic environmental and tourism policies and regulatory mechanisms, to adapt and mitigate climate change impacts.

The tourism industry is notorious for high per capita consumption of water, poor energy efficiency, waste management issues and serious negative environmental impacts. We call upon the tourism industry to take on the challenge of an authentic response to the climate change crisis by implementing measures to reduce energy consumption in tourism establishments by employing energy-efficient and appropriate green technologies. We recognise that this will require a significant transformation of current forms of mass tourism and we urge a serious engagement on this issue to reduce tourism’s climate change footprint.

We question corporations and international financial institutions like the World Bank who promote market based measures such as carbon trading, carbon offsetting and carbon sinks which are totally unsustainable.

Offset schemes are utilised by industries whose profit margins depend on delaying the transition to the low-carbon economy for as long as possible. These industries focus on the consumers’ responsibility for climate change – at the expense of examining the larger, systemic changes that we need to bring about in our industries and economies.

For fossil fuel companies and airlines, offsets represent an opportunity to ‘greenwash’ their activities. Offset schemes tend to lull the customer into falsely believing that human activity that directly exacerbates climate change is effectively ‘neutralised,’ with no impact on the climate. So airline companies, which oppose aviation taxes and would never advocate that people simply choose not to fly unnecessarily. Instead, through carbon offset companies, they would rather present the section of climate-conscious passengers with the option of flying “free from concern” over the impact of their emissions. This shift to what is essentially an unregulated and disputed form of eco-taxation away from the company and onto the consumer has gained airline companies an enormous amount of favourable but farcical publicity.

The massive expansion and building of new airports, the launching and expansion of budget and short haul airlines and routes and infrastructure heavy tourism projects are celebrated as progress. The position for instance of the Ministry of Tourism, India at the 17th Session of the General Assembly of the UNWTO, that no obstacles should be created to the economic development in particular of those developing countries located at long distance from tourist generating markets, blocked any attempt to bring in climate change concerns into the discussions. “The idea of simply reducing air travel to limit emissions is not the easy way out. Solutions like emissions trading and next generation aircraft are more realistic in the mind of the UNWTO. Staying at home, heating an apartment or using a car also pollutes.” Less travel is bad for economies and jobs of destination countries,” is the prevailing message from the organization. While the attention that the UNWTO is paying to the issue of climate change is welcome, its solutions unfortunately are in the nature of quick-fixes and business as usual – carbon offsetting and carbon neutral travel and green certifications.

EQUATIONS strongly urges that the carbon neutral myth needs to be questioned as more and more destinations hop on to ‘feel good’ certification and offset schemes and call themselves earth lungs. There is enough research to show that these are false solutions and, worse still, are at the expense of examining the larger, systemic changes that we need to bring about in our industries and economies. This implies also a more rigorous analysis of the complex situation involving North-South relations and the ecological debt, the global inequality of energy and resource distribution and the interdependence of neo-liberal economic expansion and fossil-fuel consumption. It would, for instance, involve a complete halt to financing fossil fuel exploration and, at the same time, serious investment in alternative sustainable energy options.

Along with peoples movements all over the world, we condemn the rush into agro-fuels and carbon sinks as these lead to destruction of forests, increase monoculture, promote large agribusiness and pose serious threats to subsistence agriculture and food security. We call for responsible and urgent measures to address and mitigate climate change and the need to recognise that the single minded pursuance of unsustainable growth strategies puts our common future at peril.

The responsibility of seeking viable and sustainable solutions to avert the climate crisis must take into account particularly the plight of the most vulnerable communities around the world who end up paying for the irrevocable actions of those who wish to consume. In that sense we call for climate justice. The pseudo-solution of offsets only serves to delay the shift in popular consciousness that will recognise that social change and significant even dramatic changes in lifestyles is a necessary prerequisite to dealing effectively with climate change.

For more information and debate on this issue write to info@equitabletourism.org or click: www.equitabletourism.org



[Another statement was issued by the civil society group, the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism]

Is tourism a ‘smokeless’ industry?

As the ITB 2008 gathering takes place in Berlin, and the growth of tourism markets around the world is celebrated, it is timely to ask such a question.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the tourism industry, and governments generally portray tourism as a significant input in the development of the Third World. However, the perspective from the South needs to be considered as it is there that a large part of tourism activity is carried out. Has the proliferation of tourism been good for local people? With some exceptions here and there, ECOT believes that the answer cannot be in the affirmative.

Tourism is proving to have severe social and ecological costs in the developing world and elsewhere.

Despite assertions to the contrary, the experience in the South suggests that tourism is a factor in the impoverishment of communities. We ask the operators and agencies in the tourism industry to consider the following dimensions of tourism that disadvantage South communities which tourism operators would be conscious of:

<> The diversion and exploitation of essential resources such as land, water, electricity, other infrastructure to support hotels, resorts, golf courses, amusement parks, etc for tourist use and entertainment;

<> The revenue lost to host countries as a result of tax concessions, subsidized land and other costs, import advantages, low wages and reduced working conditions;

<> The social and economic impact of displacement caused by tourism development;

<> Ecological damage incurred through inappropriate tourism enterprises;

<> The climate change implications through air travel, and destruction of natural resources;

<> The costs entailed in the abuse of women and children, and trafficking;

<> The threat to cultural identity through ‘commodification’ of local culture;

<> Health hazards, arising from tourist activity involving HIV/AIDS and drugs;

<> The human rights violations that occur in the name of tourism.

ECOT argues that far from gaining from tourism, the Third World actually subsidises the global(ised) tourism enterprise!

ECOT acknowledges the initiatives, such as certification, sustainable tourism projects, and others, that have been put in place by sections of the tourism industry. However, this is a miniscule attempt given the reach and impact of tourism. ECOT calls on the tourism industry to implement its CSR with greater commitment, visibility and urgency, and takes seriously its responsibility to educate the tourists (consumers) it sends.

For further information: www.ecotonline.org



29 February, 2008 — The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) today congratulated Qantas for establishing the Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, saying the award would drive innovation and excellence in the tourism industry’s response to the challenges of sustainability and climate change.

Announcing the launch during the Australian Tourism Awards ceremony held in Canberra this evening, Qantas said its new award would recognise Australian tourism operators which minimised their impact on the local environment, respected local culture and provided benefits to the local community.

ATEC Managing Director Matthew Hingerty said Qantas’ Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism would highlight Australia’s efforts to address issues relating to environmentally-friendly tourism and climate change.

“Qantas has a long and distinguished record in developing and promoting the Australian tourism industry. As a major ATEC partner Qantas has worked hard to develop the inbound tourism industry, and this new award will only add to those efforts.”

Mr Hingerty said Qantas’ new award backed the efforts of the Tourism and Climate Change Taskforce, a joint industry and government initiative which was driving Australia’s response to the climate change challenge from tourism’s point of view. ATEC and Qantas are members of the Taskforce.

“Sustainable tourism is already a big issue, and a major selling point in the inbound market, and it is only going to get bigger,” Mr Hingerty said. “European travel groups are already warning tourist operators they won’t deal with them if they can’t demonstrate they comply with environmental standards.”

“With the attention being drawn to climate change and the impact that tourism has on the environment, it is essential that Australia promotes its sustainable tourism credentials to the world. Australia’s wildlife, ecosystems and environment are unique – for the sake of the inbound tourism industry it is vital that we work to protect and enhance them. If we act now to safeguard our natural treasures we will be locking in prosperity not only for the tourism industry but for the country as a whole.”



New York, Mar 4 2008 — Governments, businesses and the general public need more sophisticated information from their national weather services if they are to prepare adequately against natural disasters and better adapt to the threats posed by climate change, the head of the United Nations meteorological agency says. Michel Jarraud, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told a workshop yesterday in Cape Verde that there is “a vital need to better understand the linkage between environmental protection and sustainable development.”

Mr. Jarraud noted that the global economy had become increasingly sensitive to the fluctuations of weather, climate and water phenomena. Climate change, the growing competition for water, ozone depletion and the impact of desertification all require countries to have access to the best available information. “There are also raised expectations and demands for newer and more sophisticated types of services by most sectors of the economy, all of which are highly relevant to your respective societies,” he said.

The workshop, help on Sal Island on Cape Verde, runs until Friday and is aimed at helping Portuguese-speaking countries develop greater partnerships between government and civil society on environmental and climate issues.



New York, Mar 6, 2008 — In preparation for the most comprehensive picture ever drawn of the state of the Earth’s forests, which cover 30 per cent of its land and are a crucial factor in mitigating climate change, the United Nations agricultural agency today put out a call for accurate data.

“Stronger support from countries and advances in communication technology will make the next Global Forest Resources Assessment the most comprehensive and reliable yet,” Jan Heino of the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said of the assessment that will be published in 2010.

The last survey was produced with the help of over 800 people in teams working in 172 countries and many more are likely to be involved this time around, with some 220 experts are attending this week’s meeting at FAO to kick-start the process. Started over 60 years ago, the Global Forest Resources Assessment process provides information on how much forest exists, how it is being managed and how it is being lost, according to an FAO press release.

Global forest cover currently amounts to just under four billion hectares. Although the rate of net loss of forest has decreased in recent years, the world is still losing about 200 square kilometres of forest a day, FAO data indicates. Besides generating unprecedented information on deforestation, new forestation and natural forest expansion, the new survey will provide insight into the land uses that are replacing forests and the forests’ role in climate change, the agency said.

In addition, the 2010 assessment will expand knowledge of the biological diversity of forests and will include a special study on trees outside forests, a survey of the area of forest under sustainable forest management, and data on forest policy. Among the new technologies being used is an ambitious new global remote sensing survey that uses satellite data from 1975, 1990, 2000 and 2005.



Paris, 5 March 2008 — How much will it cost to address today’s key environmental problems?

“Solutions to the key environmental challenges are available, achievable and affordable, especially when compared to the expected economic growth and the costs and consequences of inaction”, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said at the worldwide launch of the 2008 OECD Environmental Outlook in Oslo, hosted by Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg.

“The Outlook is an impressive body of work. It combines hope for the future with an urgent call for action today. It offers important guidance for decision-makers and integrates economic and environmental analysis”, said Prime Minister Stoltenberg.

The 2008 OECD Environmental Outlook is a path-breaking report that marries economic and environmental projections for the next few decades and simulates specific policies to address the key challenges. It identifies four priority areas where urgent action is needed: climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and the impact on human health of pollution and toxic chemicals.

Economic-environmental projections show that world greenhouse gas emissions are expected to grow by 37% to 2030 and by 52% to 2050 if no new policy action is introduced. To meet increasing demands for food and biofuels world agricultural land use will need to expand by an estimated 10% to 2030; 1 billion more people will be living in areas of severe water stress by 2030 than today; and premature deaths caused by ground-level ozone worldwide would quadruple by 2030.

“Countries will need to shift the structure of their economies in order to move towards a low carbon, greener and more sustainable future. The costs of this restructuring are affordable, but the transition will need to be managed carefully to address social and competitiveness impacts, and to take advantage of new opportunities,” Secretary-General Gurría said.

The 2008 OECD Environmental Outlook projects that world GDP will almost double by 2030. And the OECD policy simulation shows that it would cost just over 1% of that growth to implement policies that can cut key air pollutants by about a third, and contain greenhouse gas emissions to about 12% instead of 37% growth under the scenario without new policies.

OECD recommends use of policy mixes, and to keep the costs of action low these should be heavily based on economic and market-based instruments. Examples are the use of green taxes, efficient water pricing, emissions trading, polluter-pay systems, waste charges, and eliminating environmentally harmful subsidies (e.g. for fossil fuels and agriculture). But more stringent regulations and standards (e.g. for transport and building construction), investment in research and development, sectoral and voluntary approaches, and eco-labelling and information are also needed.

Mr. Gurría said that technological developments will also contribute to the solution but that the generalised application of breakthrough technologies poses important challenges in the area of intellectual property rights which will have to be confronted.

The Outlook identifies ways to share the cost of policy action globally. Developed nations have been responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions to date, but rapid economic growth in emerging economies – particularly Brazil, Russia, India and China – means that by 2030 the annual emissions of these 4 countries together will exceed those of the 30 OECD countries combined. Fair burden-sharing and distributional aspects will be as important as technological progress and the choice of policy instruments.

“We must be aware that getting it right in the field of the environment is not only about what to do and how to do it. We also need to address the question of who will pay for what. The global cost of action will be much lower if all countries work together”, Mr. Gurría underlined.

For highlights of the report, click: www.oecd.org/environment/outlookto2030

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