For over 20 years I’ve worked on sustainable tourism issues, mainly across Africa and Asia, and with a focus on protected areas. This work included working with governments, protected area authorities, donors, NGOs, the private sector and local communities – focusing on making conditions for economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally sustainable travel.
While I have a home-office where I do the majority of my research, writing and conference calls (and so have no daily commuting impact), I frequently travel internationally for my consultancy assignments to conduct fieldwork and undertake consultation with local stakeholders. For example, in 2019 I made 10 international trips for work assignments. In 2019 I calculated the carbon emissions from my flights going back to 2016, and attempted to use a variety of calculations and tools to work out the best way of offsetting this. I found it frustrating as the different calculators generate different figures for the number of trees that need to be planted (e.g. see Carbonify.com, Trees for the Future Carbon Calculator, CarbonFund.org and others) or other offsetting options (e.g. purchasing fuel-efficient stoves). Ultimately, I made a decision to contribute to Wilderness Safaris’ Wilderness Wildlife Trust to plant indigenous trees around the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This reforestation helps to expand the habitat for endangered mountain gorillas and other species. I have an affinity for offsets that contribute to biodiversity conservation – and would do this again – but I want to improve the reliability of the way I do it. I also realise that offsetting is not a solution in itself.
In the past I’ve also planted indigenous trees myself at homes where I’ve lived, I use the Ecosia web browser (which uses its profits to plant trees), I’ve paid organisations to offset my carbon through carbon calculators, I’ve declined invitations to conferences and meetings, and I’ve tried to combine work and leisure trips to reduce my flights. Of course I also take the usual domestic actions to reduce emissions (e.g. energy saving light bulbs; turning appliances off when not in use; recycling wherever possible etc.), but I appreciate this is not always possible in places I travel to.
With the Climate Emergency I want to ensure that I am doing enough. I want a better world for my child, and her children, and for all the other species that share our world with us. Increasingly I am fearful about the incidences of extreme droughts and floods, animal die-offs, and bush fires across the planet. I want to contribute tangibly and meaningfully towards the solutions, but realise I don’t have all the answers as to how to do this, and that what I am trying to do is not perfect.
I am signing this declaration and agree to these five Tourism Declares commitments:
- Develop a ‘Climate Emergency Plan’
- Share my commitment and progress publicly
- Cut my carbon emissions in line with IPCC advice (stating the need to cut global carbon emissions to 55% below 2017 levels by 2030 to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming).
- Work with others in the travel industry
- Advocate for change throughout the travel industry
My plan going forward is has three main parts – reducing my footprint; offsetting my impact; and advocating for change. I will report on this plan, adapt and improve each year.
Reduce my footprint:
- Continue to participate in meetings remotely by conference call wherever possible, to avoid travel.
- Encourage others to present at conferences or meetings that I have been invited, where their carbon footprint for attending will be lower than mine.
- When I do fly for work or leisure, I will select options that generate lower emissions, including combining multiple-destinations on my trips.
- Attend conferences and meetings in person only where my presence can have a meaningful impact by communicating sustainability messages, and when remote participation is not possible.
Offset my impact:
- Offset carbon generated by flights for work and recreation, including through reputable offsetting organisations and/or planting trees with institutions I trust such as the Wilderness Wildlife Trust and others.
- Include carbon offset allocations for flights within future project budgets, and ensure that my clients are aware of this as a direct project cost.
- Continue to preferentially use Ecosia as my web-browser.
Advocate for change:
- Continue through my role as Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group to promote knowledge and capacity building to support the network’s members.
- Continue to actively contribute as a Board member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, to promote the GSTC criteria and sustainable tourism activities that integrate climate actions.
- Continue to work on sustainable tourism assignments on projects that embed climate actions within them, and with clients who are addressing climate change.
- Edit a ‘Handbook of applied research tools for sustainable tourism: a guide for practitioners’ that embeds chapters on climate change to share workable and rational step-by-step approaches.
- Share this commitment on my blog and other social media sites.
- Encourage others in my networks to join the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.
Want to declare, too?
Tourism Declares supports tourism businesses, organisations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions. Visit the Tourism Declares website, and find resources and guidance on how to declare.