Guiding Principle #8:
Mitigate climate impacts
Strive to follow accepted scientific consensus on needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Invest in green infrastructure and a fast reduction in transport emissions involved in tourism - air, sea, and ground.
The climate emergency is the greatest risk to the future of our planet. Climate change is increasingly unpredictable, extreme weather. Climate events such hurricanes, drought and sea level rise are obvious physical stressors for communities with economies based on tourism. Perhaps less obvious, these events are leading to population displacement worldwide. Reductions in land productivity, habitability and in food and water security, have impacts on demographic, economic, and social factors that increase forced migration, causing higher risk for the spread of disease.
Policies to lessen the global impact should favor green infrastructure, construction, and retrofitting for lodging and businesses, as well as abandonment of such carbon-spewing practices as excessive air conditioning, heating, and lighting. Landscaping with native plants, habitat restoration, and climate friendly agricultural practices can also help.
For travel and tourism, mitigating climate impacts is a matter of balance. Lessening frivolous flying, investing in a balanced carbon offset program, making sure that when you do take a flight, you make it count - e.g. taking fewer, longer holidays.
Building sustainability practices into destination management builds resiliency and can help to withstand pandemics, economic crisis, terrorism, and other crises. See Principle #11. Investment must be made to mitigate climate impacts on tourism assets - from polar bear tours in a warming Arctic, to island chains in the Caribbean and Pacific ravaged by increasingly stronger storms, to indigenous communities affected by drought, and food and water insecurity.
Importantly, tourism is also an opportunity for public education around climate change, especially how it manifests itself locally and the consequences that flow from it. Visitors to tropical beach resorts, for instance, should go home with a better idea of climate impacts on coral reefs and on our marine food chain, as well as consequences of sea-level rise. This is best done through the impact of tourism, rather than unrequested lecturing.
A real-life example: After Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico in 2017, the island communities made a huge investment in solar energy - lessening their carbon footprint, and strengthening resiliency for future storms. Read more.
The questions we should ask to further achieve this principle:
What is contributing to the carbon footprint of our operations? Are we measuring it?
How can we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels?
How can we better prepare for climate change impacts and build community resilience?
Are we offsetting the emissions that we can’t reduce?
Are we raising climate awareness among tourists and local communities?
Are we fostering clean energy innovation?
Coastal Tourism, Sustainability, and Climate Change in the Caribbean, Volumes I & II (Business Expert Press, 2017): In 2017, CREST released two volumes entitled Coastal Tourism, Sustainability, and Climate Change in the Caribbean. Volume I is focused on Hotels and Beaches and Volume II on Supporting Activities, including Golf, Sustainable Food Sourcing, and Airlines & Airports. The volumes contain essays and case studies by 33 different experts that look at how various tourism sectors both contribute to and are impacted by climate change.
Marine Tourism, Climate Change, and Resilience in the Caribbean, Volumes I & II (Business Expert Press, 2017): As the island and coastal nations of the Caribbean respond to and prepare for the effects of climate change, tourism has the potential to both exacerbate and mitigate these efforts.
SECTION A: Sustainable management
A(c) Managing pressure and change
A10 Climate change adaptation
SECTION D: Environmental sustainability
D(c) Management of waste and emissions
D10 GHG emissions and climate change mitigation
D11 Low-impact transportation