Tourism, Climate Change and Travel the YMCA way

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Last Updated (Monday, 07 December 2020 15:25)

The travel and tourism industry has a high climate and environmental footprint, requiring heavy energy and fuel consumption and placing stress on land systems. Flights taken to reach tourist destinations cause more CO2 emissions than all local activities combined, with severe consequences for climate change. It has been estimated road and air travel to destinations contribute over 70% of the total carbon footprint of each trip.

The travel and tourism industry contributes to around 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of aviation (40%), transportation (30%) and the consumption of goods and services (30%) including food and accommodation (Lenzen et al., 2018). The UNFCCC claimed that 8% is enormous and not sustainable. 8% makes the industry a bigger polluter than the construction industry. Travel and tourism-related transport CO2 emissions are predicted to increase to almost 2 million tonnes by 2030, a 25% rise from 2016 to 2030. The growth of travel and tourism over recent years has put achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement at risk.

During this time of COVID-19 pandemic travel and tourism is one of the industries most affected. On the one hand, there has been some reprieve in terms of reduction of GHG emissions, but on the other hand, it is impacting economies, livelihoods, public services and opportunities on all continents. Both the Governments as well as the travel and tourism industry are struggling to revive and kickstart traveling again.

From the perspective of climate change, this crisis presents to us an unprecedented opportunity to reform and transform the relationship of tourism with nature, climate and the economy. It is time to rethink how this industry impacts our natural resources and ecosystems, building on existing work on sustainable tourism; to examine how it interacts with our societies and other economic sectors; to measure and manage it better; to ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and to advance the transition towards a carbon-neutral and resilient tourism economy. We should take this opportunity to change the nature or traditional understanding of tourism by developing and promoting responsible and sustainable perspectives and practices on tourism by introducing responsible and sustainable activities at the destinations – focus on low carbon activities and carbon mitigating activities.

As travel restarts in some parts of the world, many YMCAs will also begin to plan programs that would involve traveling to an activity venue. We want to encourage you to Travel the YMCA way.

We hope that this GATN campaign on Traveling the YMCA way can transform not just our travel behaviour but will help us to adopt a more responsible and sustainable daily lifestyle, too.

Below are some simple steps to begin our responsible and sustainable lifestyle and to combat climate change.

  1. Watch our consumption habits, especially electricity and water.
  2. Eat local foods. Imported foods and products have a high carbon footprint.
  3. Minimize driving by setting concrete reduction goals and walking, biking, carpooling and using public transit as much as possible. Set a goal of walking or biking anywhere within 2 km of your home.
  4. Fly less and, when you do fly, make your travel count and justify your carbon footprint:
  • travel with a purpose -- not just for pleasure or leisure
  • choose green hotels and encourage hotels you visit to green their practices
  • mitigate your travel and consumption with carbon neutral or carbon negative activities
  • make sure the local communities benefit from your travel-- support the local economies, contribute to local development, support local NGOs and community services projects

~ Chan Beng Seng, GATN Coordiator