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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 02/ 2021

March 8, 2021
Harold Goodwin
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  1. The Critical Decade: we are in clear and present danger
  2. Climate Change is a Cumulative Problem 
  3. Biodiversity Loss is Bad For Us Too
  4. Covid-19 will be part of the new normal
  5. Resilience and Responsibility 
  6. Perfect Storm: Climate Change and Tourism
  7. International Women's Day
  8. OECD Manual: Sustainable & Inclusive Tourism
  9. 2021 India Responsible Tourism Awards & Ethical Travel Awards
  10. Miscellany 

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  1. The Critical Decade - we are in clear and present danger
    Tom Clancy popularised the phrase "clear and present danger" when he used it for his 1989 political thriller. It was the US Supreme Court Justice Holmes who formulated the “clear and present danger” test in a case heard in 1925 asserting that it is a "question of proximity and degree." It was back in February 2010, over a decade ago,  that UN Secretary-General told the UN Environment Programme’s Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum that that "climate change is a clear and present danger."  In 1972 the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth which used a computer simulation to forecast the consequences of the exponential economic and population growth with a finite supply of resources.In 2016, a report published by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth concluded that "there is unsettling evidence that society is still following the 'standard run' of the original study – in which overshoot leads to an eventual collapse of production and living standards". Download  There is still debate about the limits to growth, debates about individual elements of the science on climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, pollution and what Kate Raworth has conceptualised as Doughnut Economics.

    We have 'known' since 1972 that although we see ourselves as having dominion over nature and our planet which we can exploit for our benefit, individually and collectively, we have known since we first saw those Apollo photographs of  Earth in 1968 that our planet is finite. It is not infinite. Urgent action is required to tackle the connected global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, and mounting inequality. We have had decades of procrastination and prevarication. This is now the critical decade, we have delayed action for decades refusing to adopt the precautionary principle and paid lip service to sustainability.

    We face a perfect storm of threats to ecosystems, systems which we rely on for human health, welfare and prosperity. We express more concern about the scale of the financial debt burden we leave to future generations, paper debt, than we do about the real material consequences of the greenhouse gas emissions we are bequeathing our children and their children. A debt that will make human life more and more difficult to sustain.

  2. Climate Change is a Cumulative Problem
    Climate change results from the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The science now is irrefutable, the burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution has increased the quantity of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere to a level where we are changing our climate. Our pollution is changing our climate and making our planet less habitable for ourselves and many other species. We are bequeathing the consequences of our pollution to our children and their children's children. The CO2 we are putting into our atmosphere now will take generations to be removed by natural processes. Getting to zero carbon emissions by 2050 is not the point. We need to cut now the number of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere.

    The UK track recorded reveals the scale of the problem. In the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK Pledged to cut net emissions by 80% by 2050. The Act established the Climate Change Committee (CCC) as an independent, statutory body. Back in December 2020 it published its Sith Carbon Budget for the period 2033 to 2037. Meeting the Budget’s requirements will require a cut of 78% in emissions by 2035. All new cars, vans and replacement boilers to be zero-carbon in operation by the early 2030s. UK electricity production must then reach net-zero by 2035, in line with the National Grid ESO’s vision, and the majority of existing UK homes will need to be retrofitted in some way also.The CCC has deliberately front-loaded the targets reduce the cost of the transition, as technologies would mature sooner and investors would have the policy certainty needed to provide support at scale. more The Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change, in 2006 a decade and a half ago, made very clear that delay increased the cost of mitigation and adaptation.As Anderson, Broderick and Stoddard  have pointed out the mitigation plans of even ‘climate progressive’ nations, in this case, the UK and Sweden, fall far short of Paris-compliant pathways given the international community’s obligations accepted under the Paris Agreement and "the small and rapidly dwindling global carbon budget."Like Covid-19 climate change kills people, although generally not “us”.In January, the UN Secretary-General reported that extreme weather and climate-related hazards had killed more than 410,000 people in the past decade, the vast majority in low and lower-middle-income countries. A paper last month in Science Advances reports that vulnerabilities are seen across human and natural systems, including both wealthy and poor communities, and both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and a higher probability of extreme weather events many in areas with large human populations, high human vulnerability, and/or high biodiversity.It is a rare thing for the industry to call for stronger regulation. Last month the Fuelling Flight Project which includes NGOs and major airlines (AirFrance, easyJet, Finnair, IAG & KLM) pointed to 'the risk of massive capital investments in things that increase emissions compared to fossil fuels and/or that become stranded assets’ and called for ‘future proof sustainability requirements’ higher than the ones in the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive including ‘clear exclusions of unsustainable feedstocks and pathways such as biofuels from dedicated cropland and PFAD [Palm Fatty Acid Distillate]’.The group, including airlines,  has called for higher sustainability standards before SAF is prioritised and ramped up. As they assert: “Competition for limited resources, particularly in relation to international transport, will not solve the global climate challenge.”

    In February David Attenborough gave a stark warning on climate change to the  UN and called for co-operative international action -sadly in a world experiencing a resurgence in nationalism.

    There is plenty of reason to be concerned. The New York Times has reviewed the scientific research being undertaken into changes in the Gulf Stream, currents swing west from Africa, ultimately influencing weather patterns from Caracas to Miami to Europe. The Gulf Stream propels the heat of the Caribbean past Cape Hatteras before bending toward the British Isles. The fear is that melting Greenland ice will tip the delicate balance of hot and cold that defines not only the North Atlantic. "Without this current — a heat pump on a planetary scale — scientists believe that great swaths of the world might look quite different."

    And some reason for optimism. The most recent  Climate Action Tracker reports that in the last few months of 2020, about 35 countries plus the EU27 submitted an updated or second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC, unfortunately, 10 did not increase the scale of their ambition/ Insert imageJustin Rowlatt, the BBC's chief environment correspondent has expressed optimism pointing to COP26, the fact that counties including Chia are committing to more substantial cuts, the falling costs of renewables, the changes businesses are making and low-interest rates could facilitate a major drive top build back better. A fortnight earlier. Matt McGrath, Rowlatt's colleague at the BBC, filed a story with the headline "'Not enough' climate ambition shown by leaders." Things may be changing but it is too early to tell.

    BP plans to cut oil and gas production by 40pc this decade and push BP further into renewable energy, amid growing public clamour to tackle global warming. Charles de Gaulle airport has abandoned plans for a new terminal.UNDP has conducted a major international survey in 50 countries - the Peoples' Climate Vote. 64% of people said that climate change was an emergency – presenting a clear and convincing call for decision-makers to step up on ambition. Not surprisingly, The highest level of support was in SIDS (74%), followed by high-income countries (72%), middle-income countries (62%), then LDCs (58%). Making companies pay for pollution had high support in seven of twelve high-income countries, led by the United Kingdom (72%) and Canada (69%).

  3. Biodiversity Loss is Bad For Us Too
    Revenues from tourism matter to conservation
    , the Coivd-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important revenues from tourism are to the conservation of habitat and species.  Ecotourism is not good enough: We must take responsibility and distance ourselves, and our industry, from the ‘take only photographs, leave only footprints’ ethic. Tourism needs to put resources into conservation and benefit local communities to recompense them for the opportunity costs of living with wildlife and we need to work harder to counter the illegal trade in wildlife. moreUNEP has just published Making Peace With Nature: "A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies”. They argue that we must improve our relationship with nature, understanding its value and putting that value at the heart of our decision- making" - we need to stop being at war with nature.This is a high-level report with only five references to tourism.Costa Rica is promoting an international coalition that seeks to establish codes so that interactions between tourists and wildlife are safe and ethical. In Agra, Wildlife SOS has launched a campaign to promote responsible and cruelty-free wildlife tourism in India. Domestic cats, lions, tigers, mink, dogs and gorillas can catch Covid-19. The majority of gorilla selfies that researchers found on Instagram violated social distancing rules meant to keep the endangered great apes safe.

    In the UK some areas saw a huge increase in “wild toileting”. Cash-strapped councils, which have no obligation to provide toilets, have been shutting them for years and relying on shops, pubs and cafes to fill the gap. Closed during the pandemic the shortage of public toilets in the UK was revealed.  The Clifton Downs in Bristol have suffered heavy damage in the past year as hoards of visitors flock to the popular spot for fresh air and exercise during the pandemic. Walkers have churned up the grass and vans parked on grass verges have caused two drains to collapse. “The amount of trampling/wear and erosion to the ground has gone from being only in a few key places and at certain times of the year, to be in all parts of the Downs throughout the year.

  4. Covid-19 will be part of the new normal
    Living with pandemics.
    For the future of travel and tourism, we need the world to be much better equipped to deal with pandemics as they emerge. Those countries with recent experience of epidemic diseases have generally been more successful than those which have not. We have learnt to live with and manage influenza; hopefully, we will learn to live with and manage Covid-19 too. The development of broad-based vaccines is likely critical to maintaining the open borders essential to our industry. Otherwise, we may face uncertainty with periodic panic, lockdowns and forced quarantine as a regular hazard for travellers and holidaymakers.This pandemic has revealed just how vulnerable travel and tourism is to diseases spread by people. Although it is also clear that those countries that locked down effectively and quickly had fewer deaths, the travel and tourism sector were still hit hard.With flights cancelled and travellers facing quarantine abroad or on return some become stuck overseas. UKOther nationals have been hit much harder. There are nearly 40,000 Australians stuck overseas because of government caps on international arrivals, transit-country restrictions and expensive and cancelled flights. Although the roll-out of vaccines in the richer countries is proceeding apace there is real concern about how quickly vaccines will get to poorer countries.

    On Feb 24, 2021, 600 000 doses of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Ghana. 2 days later, 500 000 doses of the same vaccine landed in the Ivory Coast. The West African nations are the first countries to receive the product as part of the COVAX initiative, a joint endeavour between WHO, Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which aims to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are equitably distributed around the world. Demand for the vaccines will far exceed supply this year and there are growing concerns that poorer countries will get left behind. Even if everything goes according to plan, countries relying on COVAX alone cannot expect to vaccinate more than 20% of their population. more

    In the meantime travel agents in the UK are reporting that they have clients who are still travelling despite the lockdown. In a TravelMole poll of agents, almost 35% said their clients were travelling on business but a further 30% said some clients were taking leisure trips, even though this is against the law. The UK government has tightened regulations on foreign travel. Travellers leaving the UK will have to show a  new permit proving they are travelling for essential reasons in a move to stop Easter holidays being taken abroad. In Kent, there is concern about Airbnb hosts in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay rent rooms out for illegal breaks. Images of large crowds and overflowing bins on Whitstable seafront were shared widely on social media, prompting calls for “spectacularly selfish” visitors to be stopped from flocking to the coast.

  5. Resilience and ResponsibilityWhen there is a "clear and present danger" resilience matters.

    In three decades BlackRock has evolved from an eight-person start-up to a global company trusted to manage more assets than any other investment manager delivering long-term value for the clients and shareholders. Their latest report, Sustainable investing: Resilience amid uncertainty,  reaffirms their view that: "Combining traditional investing with environmental, social, and governance-related (ESG) insights to improve[s] long-term outcomes ... Companies with strong profiles on material sustainability issues have potential to outperform those with poor profiles. In particular, ... companies managed with a focus on sustainability should be better positioned versus their less sustainable peers to weather adverse conditions while still benefiting from positive market environments."For five decades we have mouthed sustainability, paid lip service to it, some have done more and taken responsibility to develop sustainable businesses and destinations. But most have not. We cannot collectively claim that we sustainably utilised resources in a way that avoids depleting them for future generations. We have failed collectively to take responsibility to meet the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and mounting inequality that were foreseen by natural and social scientists, but we have failed to act. The 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, defined sustainable development refers to development that meets our current needs without hindering the ability of future generations to meet theirs.  We have substantially failed to achieve this at the system level. So now have to cope with the consequences of climate change, biodiversity loss and limits imposed on resource availability by our finite planet.

    In the UK, Sir John Bevan, the chief executive of the Environment Agency said on 23rd February speaking to the annual conference of the Association of British Insurers that: "Much more extreme weather will kill more people through drought, flooding, wildfires and heatwaves than most wars have." He went on to say "The net effects will collapse ecosystems, slash crop yields, take out the infrastructure that our civilisation depends on, and destroy the basis of the modern economy and modern society."

  6. Perfect Storm
    We hear a bewildering amount about how businesses are reducing their carbon emissions. Confusion is a powerful tool in the hands of those wanting to continue with business as usual. There has been much chatter about greenhouse gas emissions having reduced during COVID-19 lockdowns. The continuous data set collected at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, reveals that even with the impact of Covid-19 we have not dented the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, for all the talk, their scientists report that the rate of growth is accelerating.Back in December Antonio Guterres pointed to our folly: “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes,” he said. This is the bad news. The good news is that  “Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it.” Last month the UN Secretary-General reported that extreme weather and climate-related hazards have killed more than 410,000 people in the past decade, the vast majority in low and lower-middle-income countries. moreThe IMF has recently published a Working Paper: Perfect Storm: Climate Change and Tourism  The IMF points out that: "While the world’s attention is on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change remains a greater existential threat to vulnerable countries that are highly dependent on a weather-sensitive sector like tourism. The paper concludes that as "extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe over time,.. Caribbean countries need to pursue comprehensive adaptation policies to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change."
  7. International Women's Day
    This edition of RT News is being published on International Women's Day  This year's theme is #ChooseToChallenge, challenge brings change.  We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. Wildlife conservation has, until recently, been a male-dominated profession – but the landscape is beginning to change.  The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) estimates that men outnumber women by 100:1 in front-line conservation. In Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda women form a larger proportion of the conservation workforce and they are being promoted into leadership positions. Progress is being made but not fast enough.The Fifth Sustainable Development Goal is to "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls". 54% of the tourism workforce worldwide is female but they are often predominantly in low-skilled or informal work. Women "have felt the economic shock to tourism caused by COVID-19 quickest and hardest. UNWTO has produced a Series of Recommendations for an Inclusive Response to ensure that women are not left behind." more  Turisme de Barcelona is launching a Women’s Itinerary through Ciutat Vella and a viral action in social media with different working women’s voices on VisitBarcelona's website to highlight the important role of women in the tourism sector promoting equal opportunities.
  8. OECD Manual: Sustainable & Inclusive Tourism
    The paper published in January focuses on five main pillars of policy solutions, and best practices, to help destinations rebuild and flourish in this dramatically changed policy
    context for tourism development. Recommended policy solutions aim to: i) rethink tourism success, ii) adopt an integrated policy-industry-community approach, iii) mainstream sustainable policies and practices, iv) develop more sustainable tourism business models, and v) implement better measurement to better manage. The report presents 9 case studies on destination strategies to support a sustainable and inclusive recovery. The 9 case studies are Austria (Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park), Colombia, Finland, France (Corsica), Japan (Kyoto), Mexico, New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), Spain (Benidorm) and Switzerland.
  9. 2021 India Responsible Tourism Awards & Ethical Travel Awards

    Ethical Traveller describes the purpose of their awards: "Our goal is to encourage practices and mindsets that help create a safer and more sustainable world. Our Ethical Destinations Awards are given to the 10 that have shown the greatest improvement over the past year. They must also offer unspoiled natural beauty, great outdoor activities, and the opportunity to interact with local people in a meaningful, mutually enriching way." more

The 2021 India Responsible Tourism Awards were presented in Konark, Odisha. The winners and the judges' reasons can be found on the Responsible Tourism Partnership website.


10: Miscellany

  • Louisville Tourism in the United States has announced a Black Heritage tour collection, The Unfiltered Truth, which will celebrate the important African American contribution to the history and culture of Louisville. more
  • Startups from around the world have been recognized for their unique contributions to sustainable and responsible tourism in the UNWTO SDGs Global Startup Competition. The jury chose 25 winners from 18 countries. more
  • Exceptional Caribbean has been launched to Promote and Position the Caribbean as an amazing place to Live, Work and Play. Barbados is Exceptional – Here’s Why  The Caribbean is the Most Democratic Place in the World  Marijuana Myths and Missed Opportunities in the Caribbean
  • The Blank Collective is a travel venture which merges responsible tourism with learning indigenous art forms of India. The Collective offers offbeat experiences and opportunities to learn diverse artforms, providing additional income for local practitioners, and preserving the artforms by facilitating learning. It is hosting a curated nine-day experience in Ladakh, where participants can combine travel and art in a single, unique adventure. The experience brings people face to face with the two active practitioners of a local art form known as Likir pottery. As a way of conserving and spreading this art form, it will be taught to the participants during the experience



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