Progress in reducing carbon intensity in the travel and tourism industry can be attributed to several actions, according to a new report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
“Our report notes that the impacts of climate change are already beginning to be experienced with lower crop yields and more intense storms and heat waves.
The overall warming across the past three decades has been concentrated in oceans, leading to expansion that is eroding coastlines and increasing sea levels. It is also leading to acidification, which threatens marine life,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC, told Fin24.
“The confluence of these factors may result in serious socio-economic ripple effects, which will bring challenges to food supply, health problems, displacement of people, increased poverty and geopolitical conflicts related to energy and natural resources.”
The latest report shows that many large role players in the industry have already improved their carbon efficiency by 20% in the last ten years and are on course to reach the target of a 25% reduction by 2020.
According to the report the global travel and tourism industry has made strong progress with accountability and responsibility, for instance, particularly in admitting to the challenge of tackling climate change and setting out plans to address and measure it.
WTTC members also demonstrated community engagement, charitable contributions, disaster relief or conservation efforts – deforestation in particular – while others focus on preserving coral reefs, hosting bee colonies on rooftops, managing waste, or ensuring sustainable sourcing.
The report, which comes in the run up to the COP21 climate change talks in Paris at the end of this year, also found that most travel and tourism companies now have branded sustainability programmes, often including customer engagement programmes. Most WTTC member companies have achieved green certification of some type.
Greening supply chains is another aspect WTTC members focus on, developing practical tools to help procurement from local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of this.
“While the sector has grown, added more jobs and contributed billions of dollars to economies all over the world, we have seen real commitment to sustainability from business as companies innovate and collaborate with others to reduce their overall impacts.”
In his view the next 20 years will be characterised by the industry fully integrating climate change and related issues into its business strategy, supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy, strengthening resilience at a local level against climate risks, promoting the value of responsible travel, and greening entire supply chains.
“To reach these long term goals, much still needs to be done across travel and tourism and other sectors, but we now have a common understanding and are ever-closer to agreement on the global actions necessary,” said Scowsill.
The WTTC report outlines five priority areas for the travel and tourism industry to support the overall target of halving emissions by 2035.
The first is to integrate climate change and related issues into business strategy. This can be done by disclosing climate change issues in mainstream financial reporting, utilising recognised frameworks and collaborating to harmonise the approach for disclosure within the industry.
Secondly, the leading practice of establishing an internal price of carbon, focusing on renewables for new investments, seeking low carbon financing mechanisms, contributing to local economies with carbon mitigation and catalysing the economies of scale to create a virtuous circle, must be followed.
The value that local natural and cultural heritage has for travel and tourism and forging partnerships to build resilience against climate risks, is the fourth priority area stipulated in the report.
Fourthly, travellers must be provided with the tools to be responsible travellers and be offered new experiences tied directly to low carbon solutions.
Last, there must be engagement across the value chain by focussing efforts on the biggest opportunities to reduce carbon emissions through mechanisms such as supplier screening and local procurement.
“Travel and tourism is in a unique position to build consumer awareness of the world’s key supply chain threats by engaging travellers to link the destinations they visit with the issues back home in their own purchasing decisions as consumers and professionals,” the report states.
From Florida to the Costa del Sol, costly sea defences are accelerating beach erosion and will ultimately fail to protect coastal towns and cities from rising tides, say experts
The world’s beaches are being washed away as coastal developments increase in size and engineers build ever higher sea walls to defend against fierce winter storms and rising sea levels, according to two of the worlds’ leading marine geologists.
The warning comes as violent Atlantic and Pacific storms this week sent massive 50ft waves crashing over sea defences, washed away beaches and destroyed concrete walls in Europe, north America and the Philippines.
“Most natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of the shore,” said Andrew Cooper, professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster.
“The widespread damage on western Europe’s storm-battered shores, the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy along the northeastern US seaboard, the deaths brought on by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines all exemplify the total inadequacy of [coastal] infrastructure and the vulnerability of cities built on the edge of coastlines”, said Orrin Pilkey, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Pilkey and Cooper say in a new book, The Last Beach, that sea walls, which are widely believed by many local authorities to protect developments from erosion and sea level rise, in fact lead to the destruction of beaches and sea defences and require constant rebuilding at increasing cost.
Dunes and wide beaches protect buildings from storms far better than sea walls, say the authors. “The beach is a wonderful, free natural defence against the forces of the ocean. Beaches absorb the power of the ocean waves reducing them to a gentle swash that laps on the shoreline. Storms do not destroy beaches. They change their shape and location, moving sand around to maximise the absorption of wave energy and then recover in the days, months and years to follow,” said Pilkey .
Beaches in nature are almost indestructible, but seawall construction disrupts the natural movement of sand and waves, hindering the process of sand deposition along the shorelines, said Cooper.
“The wall itself is the problem. If you build a sea wall to protect the shore, the inevitable consequence is that the beach will disappear. The wall cannot absorb the energy of the sea. All beaches with defences … are in danger. When you build the sea wall, that is the end of the beach,” he said.
“Beaches have become long, narrow engineering projects sustained only by constant maintenance and ongoing expenditures. Ugly seawalls have removed beaches altogether. Trying to hold the shoreline in position makes a flexible response to sea level rise more difficult,” said Pilkey.
Many of the world’s most famous beaches are now ecologically dead and dependent for their survival on being replenished with sand or gravel, they say. “The death knell has already sounded for large stretches of beaches along densely developed shorelines like those in Florida, Spain’s Costa del Sol, Australia’s Gold Coast and Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro,” says Pilkey.
But Jonathan Simm, technical director for flood management at HR Wallingford defended engineers. “We are but servants. There are some very difficult social and political decisions that have to be made about which frontages should be defended. Engineers get struck in the middle between different… political and technical arguments.
“The reality is that major urban conurbations are going to want to sustain their existing defences. But a lot of beaches are under stress so the engineering is going to become much more expensive.”
Sea level rise, which is expected to raise levels significantly over the next 100 years, will affect beaches in different ways, said Pilkey. “Although the sea has only risen a foot (0.3 meters) over the last 100 years or so, that amount can have a real impact on shoreline retreat on very gently sloping coasts. In theory, a one-foot sea-level rise should push the shoreline back 2,000 feet.”
As beaches disappear, countries are turning to increasingly expensive sand replenishment programmes which dump thousands of tonnes of dredged sand on existing, eroded beaches.
But these artificial beaches usually erode at least twice as fast as natural beaches and can only ever be a temporary solution, said Cooper. “As time goes on and as the sea level rises, the interval of re-replenishment will get shorter because the beach becomes less stable. Beach replenishment is only a plaster that must be applied again and again at great cost. It doesn’t remove the problem, it treats the symptoms. Eventually and inevitably beach replenishment will stop either as sand or money runs out”.
It also smothers all life on the beach. “The near shore food chain that originates with the tiny organisms living between grains of sands and surviving on occasional influxes of seaweed is now gone. The whole ecosystem is out of whack. Habitats for turtle and bird nesting are being destroyed,” said Cooper.
“We have a mentality to just rebuild everything after a storm. The simplest solution would be to move the infrastructure back. The problem is the obsession with building and defending property right next to the beach and to hold the beach in place. This process just destroys the beach.”
Source: The Guardian