With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches paying a heavy price for our plastic addiction, the travel and tourism industry is taking action to reduce its plastic footprint and encourage its customers to do the same.
One of Britain’s biggest tour operators, Thomas Cook, said in November 2018 that it would remove around 70 million single-use plastic items—enough to fill 3,500 suitcases—from domestic operations, planes and branded hotels during the next year.
A pilot scheme in its #noplaceforplastic campaign will run this summer on the Greek island of Rhodes where the company will try out sustainable alternatives and work with the local community and government to improve recycling infrastructure.
Thomas Cook will trial plastic-free toiletries in some of its brand hotels and promote water fountains and other fresh water sources. The company will also work with sustainable designers Wyatt and Jack to turn broken and discarded inflatables, like lilos and armbands, into bags and holiday accessories. On its airline, it will remove plastic wrappers on headsets and reduce the size of its duty-free plastic bags.
“This is very important because many of the tourist destinations that we travel to do not have appropriate systems for recycling,” says Xavier Font, professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey. “Their action is important to create awareness amongst destination stakeholders and, more importantly, to empower them to look for solutions.”
While tourism contributes 10 per cent of global gross domestic product and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, UN Environment’s research has shown that the industry’s use of key resources, like energy and water, is growing commensurately with its generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, sewage, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Wildlife Fund reported in June 2018 that more than 200 million tourists visiting the Mediterranean every summer cause an almost 40 per cent spike in plastic entering the sea. With 80 per cent of all tourism taking place in coastal areas, this destructive pattern is repeated elsewhere.
Last April, the Philippines temporarily closed the island of Boracay to clean up dumped sewage and upgrade its drainage systems. Thailand has closed Maya Bay, made famous by the 2000 film The Beach, to allow it to recover from pollution and other damage caused by tourists. And in 2017, Indonesia declared a “garbage emergency” in parts of Bali.
As part of its Clean Seas campaign, UN Environment is working with governments, businesses and citizens to reduce the use of disposable plastics. Among those who have signed up are dozens of hotels from Thailand’s Phuket Hotels Association and the airline Hi Fly.
Increasingly aware of public dismay over the toxic tide of plastic, the industry is cracking down on single-use plastics. Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Virgin Australia and United Airlines are among carriers pledging to phase out single-use plastics like straws and stirrers. Ryanair has pledged to eliminate all non-recyclable plastics by 2023, switching instead to wooden cutlery and biodegradable coffee cups, for example.
Hotel group Iberostar has made its staff uniforms out of recycled plastic and is eliminating single-use plastics from its rooms, while the Walt Disney Company is set to ban single-use plastic straws and stirrers from nearly all its theme parks and resorts from mid-2019. Polystyrene cups will be eliminated at its parks.
Hotel giant Hilton pledged to get rid of plastic straws in all its 650 locations and eliminate plastic bottles from its conferences. Marriott International is eliminating plastic straws and replacing small bottles of toiletries with dispensers in its North American hotels.
MSC Cruises aims to phase-out single-use plastics by March next year, while Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten says it has removed all unnecessary single-use plastic items. Lindblad Expeditions, an adventure cruise company, has said it is now free of single-use plastics with all such items banned from its 13 ships.
Royal Caribbean has said its 50 ships would stop using plastic straws by the end of last year. P&O Cruises and Cunard are also planning to abolish plastic straws, water bottles and stirrers by 2022, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has launched an anti-plastics initiative, including a ban on straws.
However, while eliminating plastic products is positive, the industry must do more, Font says.
“If a hotel group, for example, removes plastic straws, this is great to create staff and customer consciousness around this topic. But this cannot be the only thing that the company does. Otherwise, it becomes tokenistic, and any campaign that focuses on that is another form of greenwashing,” he says.
In its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report in 2017, the World Economic Forum noted that degradation of the natural environment was having a serious effect on the tourism sector: as natural capital depletes—because of overfishing, deforestation or water and air pollution—so tourism revenues decline.
“Given the close relationship between natural resources and a very large segment of the tourism industry, then, a lack of progress on fostering sustainability, both from a general and sectoral point of view, will reduce tourism development opportunities,” it said.
Some tour operators are going the extra green mile, offering holidays designed to help tourists ditch their plastic habits. For example, Responsible Tourism offers a “no single-use plastics” section on its website while Undiscovered Mountains offers a plastic-free trip in the French Alps which includes a night in a refuge with guests asked to carry the rubbish away with them.
Innovative solutions to environmental challenges will be at the heart of the fourth UN Environment Assembly in March. The meeting’s motto is to think beyond prevailing patterns and live within sustainable limits.
Authorities in some popular tourist destinations are doing just that. Fort Myers Beach, in Florida, has banned the sale or use of plastic straws throughout the island in a bid to protect turtles nesting on the beaches. In Italy, the archipelago of Isole Tremiti has banned all plastic plates, cups and utensils, with fines for those who do not comply.
While such initiatives may offer inspiration to others in the industry, Font says the scale of the plastic pollution problem demands a collaborative approach.
“What we need is for industry associations to get behind these individual actions [by tour operators, etc.] and introduce industry-wide standards as a requirement to be a member of the association. We need whole destinations to act on this. We are not there yet.”
The UN World Tourism Organization is developing a way to measure the sustainability of tourism to create an international standard for tourism statistics. The standard will eventually be able to connect tourism indicators to the Sustainable Development Goals, expanding existing measurements beyond primarily economic indicators.
Beyond industry initiatives, individuals can also play a role. The World Travel and Tourism Council has urged travellers to minimize their plastic footprint by doing four simple things: bring your own water bottle and purification system, carry a collapsible tote bag, refuse small bottles of toiletries in hotels and find out where you can recycle your plastic waste.
Simple steps, but if taken by every one of the estimated 1.3 billion international tourists, they could make a world of difference.
Carbon market negotiations under the Paris Agreement
The world’s climate negotiators recently concluded two weeks of discussions about the next steps for the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, with carbon market rules high on the agenda.
The annual mid-year climate negotiations are generally held ahead of the annual Conference of the Parties (COP), the top decision-making body for climate negotiations.
The recent COP24, in Katowice, Poland, was heralded by many as a success in multilateralism and diplomacy. It adopted an almost complete set of rules and guidelines supporting implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, the parties did not ultimately reach a consensus on one specific area: the rules for using carbon markets.
These rules are known in the climate jargon as the “Article 6 rules”, after the Paris Agreement article that mandates them. After the inconclusive talks at COP24, negotiators were tasked to come up with a new proposal for the Article 6 rules that could be adopted at the next COP25, in Santiago, Chile, later this year.
At the recent meeting in Bonn, which concluded last week, countries made good progress on technical discussions and came up with a new negotiating text. But disagreements remain about the status of the text and how to take it forwards. This means that there is everything to play for as we move towards COP25.
Here are some key points for understanding why carbon markets matter so much under the Paris Agreement and what the bottlenecks are in the negotiations.
What is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement?
Carbon markets are aimed at lowering the cost of reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Expanding and linking those markets internationally can help further drive down the cost of achieving emission reduction targets, helping to stimulate the needed investments for clean energy transitions.
By agreeing to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, countries opened the way for a new form of international interaction on carbon markets. Article 6 builds on a long history of market approaches under the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor.
Article 6 is intended to support countries in enhancing the ambitions of their stated climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which collectively contribute to the overarching goal of the Paris Agreement: keeping the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the nature of carbon markets means that robust rules are important to ensure that environmental and sustainable development gains are realised. Article 6 introduces two voluntary market-based paths for international co-operation.
Article 6.2 sets out the principles for voluntary co-operative approaches. One country can transfer so-called “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” (ITMOs) to another country, which can then use them towards its NDC target. These transfers must apply robust and transparent accounting rules to avoid double counting of ITMOs and to ensure environmental integrity. The transfers can take place using various approaches and mechanisms, such as bilateral cooperation programmes between countries, or national or regional emission trading schemes (ETS).
Article 6.4 establishes a mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development, under the oversight of a central UN governance body. Public and private entities can participate in this mechanism if authorised by a country. While the main intention is that emissions reductions from the mechanism will count towards achievement of countries’ NDCs, the mechanism could also be used in other ways. For example, airlines could use credits from the mechanism to comply with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Other companies could use them to count towards carbon neutrality. However, double counting of these emission reductions must be avoided.
Despite the lack of a formal outcome on Article 6 at the recent negotiations in Bonn, countries made substantial progress and had constructive discussions. Differences remain on several issues ahead of COP25, though. For instance, countries have not yet agreed on an accounting system to avoid double counting and other elements needed to prevent potential environmental integrity risks.
How is the IEA contributing?
The IEA is contributing to the discussions on Article 6 – as well as to the negotiations more broadly – through technical analysis by the joint OECD-IEA Climate Change Expert Group (CCXG). For more than 25 years, the CCXG has been developing and publishing technical papers in consultation with a wide range of countries to inform ongoing climate negotiations.
Through the CCXG, the IEA recently co-published a technical paper that analyses two specific unresolved issues in the negotiations of rules for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement: the accounting system of Article 6.2, and the implications of a potential transition of Kyoto Protocol mechanisms to the Article 6.4 mechanism. The outcomes of the paper were presented at a side event during the Bonn conference and directly informed the negotiations.
The CCXG also convenes two major events per year to promote dialogue among government delegates and experts from developed and developing economies, outside of the formal negotiations. Discussions stretch well beyond carbon markets, also covering the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement and climate finance issues, among others. The next edition of these invitation-only Global Forums on the Environment and Climate Change will be held at the IEA headquarters in Paris on 1-2 October. In addition, the IEA is ramping up its efforts to support countries in implementing and enhancing their NDCs.
Does economic growth worth degrading the environment?
Although environmental consequences of economic growth bring about numerous reactions of economists and environmentalists, there is still doubt that environment protection rules and regulations hinder economic growth, or future development has dire consequences on the environment which does not worth it.
Here the question arises that whether eliminating natural resources must continue to make up for the slow economic growth or come up with more practicable solutions to safeguard non-renewable resources.
Many cases in Iran and other countries demonstrate the direct relation between socio-economic development and environmental degradation, showing that human are using natural resources at a pace much faster than it can replenish.
For instance, deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. An estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Reza Bayani, an official with Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization said in April that approximately 12,000 hectares of forests across Iran is wiped out annually.
Bayani referring to illegal logging as the leading cause of forest degradation, noted that timber smuggling steadily proceeding in the forests poses a serious threat to the country’s ecology for a minor population benefits.
Yousefali Ebrahimpour, commander of the protection unit of natural resources and watershed management department of West Azarbaijan province said in February that over 450 tons of smuggled log has been seized in the forests in the province, which were being smuggled to the northern provinces of the country.
While the following year flash floods in 31 provinces of the country started on March 19, caused great losses and damages which was due to deforestation and vegetation depletion in addition to building encroaching river beds.
Seyed Mohammad Mojabi, head of environment committee of the Expediency Council, said in May that following recurrent droughts and low precipitation, related organizations believed that severe rainfalls seem far-fetched in a country with arid and semi-arid climate and decided to allow construction projects through river banks, which increased flood devastation.
Road construction also is another way of development which is at loggerheads with nature, mainly resulting in many irreparable damages including road surface erosion and sediment yield, slope failures and mass movement, direct loss of habitat (by the conversion of the original land cover into an artificial surface) and indirect loss of habitat (by the fragmentation of an ecosystem into smaller and more isolated patches).
The chief of Mazandaran provincial department of environment Ebrahim Fallahi said in September 2018 that long stretches of roads are under construction in Savadkuh forest.
Moreover, excessive groundwater withdrawal, dam construction, water transfer projects, land use changes and wildfires are also the fallouts of unplanned industrial expansion which bring environmental damages, and if thinking deeply it can be realized that they can also cause immeasurable financial losses in the long run.
Mohammad Reza Goldansaz, a researcher in the field of water resources stated in June that an annual amount of 50 billion cubic meters of groundwater resources are withdrawn to supply agricultural, industrial as well as drinking water in Iran.
How growth even affects air we breathe?
When it comes to air pollution the situation even gets more complex, as car manufacturing companies produce more cars without scrapping emitting clunker ones for generating profit and responsible devices not improving fuel quality, in addition to not preparing proper plan to curb the emissions.
Deputy interior minister for urban and rural development, Mehdi Jamalinejad, has said that some 22,000 busses are operating in the country’s public transport fleet, 16,000 of which are clunkers, accounting for 70 percent of the volume of bus transport system.
Ali Mohammadi, an official with traffic police, said in January that the scrappage of clunker vehicles has decreased by 65 percent in the past Iranian calendar year 1397 (ended in March 2019) compared to a year earlier.
While last year some 140,000 vehicles were scrapped, this year only 50,000 old vehicles were discarded, he added.
Environment should not be destroyed for sake of growth
MP Homayoun Yousefi has said that economic growth is not worth of environmental degradation.
He lamented that environmental protection has decreased in Western Asia, which is mostly due to decision making is based on personal tastes not environmental assessment.
“Iran’s climate being arid is fragile, so development should be done in light of the fragility and low capacity of the country’s environment,” he highlighted, regretting, nature seems to be less considered in some development plans.
“An important factor for showing power of countries is sustainable environment, and we also need to focus more on the environment in this regard,” he added.
Toward economic growth while safeguarding environment
Green production is likely to become the center of attention globally in the near future due to the proven importance of environment, however, economic and industrial expansion resulting in urbanization are a reality that is inevitable specially in developing countries, so, we must never lose sight of the need to safeguard the environment.
Every country regarding the resources each have, has an important opportunity to make policies or take steps in line with regulations which can guide it to developmental goals. By considering environmental issues and planning for appropriate confrontation measures wherever necessary, we can even set a role model for other countries to follow.
From our partner Tehran Times
India joins the Climate and Clean Air Coalition
India has formally joined the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), becoming the 65th country to join the partnership, following through on a commitment made by the country’s newly-appointed Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, during last month’s World Environment Day celebrations.
The announcement underlines India’s commitment to combat air pollution with a solutions-oriented approach.
“India will work with Coalition countries to adopt cleaner energy sustainable production and consumption patterns and environment-friendly transport, agriculture, industry and waste management to promote clean air,” Minister Javadekar said. “India has taken a lead role in combating air pollution; these activities, including bilateral and multilateral cooperation with partners, will highlight India’s initiatives and expertise in the field.”
India plans to work with Climate Clean and Coalition countries on best practices and experiences for the effective implementation of India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
Launched in January 2019, the NCAP is a comprehensive strategy with actions to prevent, control and reduce air pollution and improve air quality monitoring across the country. It aims to reduce fine particulate (PM2.5) and particulate (PM10) air pollution by 20 per cent–30 per cent by 2024. India has identified 102 non-attainment cities, with city-specific action plans being formulated.
Clean air and climate-friendly technologies will be at the forefront of sustainable development for all countries; India is a global leader in the development of technologies, infrastructure and policies in this field.
In 2015, India initiated the International Solar Alliance, a global coalition of nations tackling climate change by leveraging the power of solar energy, and has increased its vehicle emissions standards to BS6, which is similar to Euro 6 standards. In 2017, the Central Government announced that from 2030, all new vehicles sold in the country would be electric.
The Coalition offers India a well-established and action-oriented partnership platform, which will be instrumental in the implementation of the country’s ambitious National Clean Air Programme and will help define priorities when it comes to action on air pollution, development and climate co-benefits of it.
In addition, the Coalition can support India’s efforts to develop the governance and local capacities to adopt and implement environmentally friendly technologies and solutions.
“It is with great pleasure that the CCAC welcomes India as a new partner to the Coalition. India joins a coalition of 64 countries that strives for better air quality, and at the same time, for the mitigation of climate change. With a population of 1.3 billion people, India is a key partner for global action on climate and clean air,” said Yuka Greiler, Head of the Global Programme for Climate Change and Environment at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Co-chair to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. “The participation of India in the CCAC will also reinforce the Coalition. We very much look forward to learning from India’s experiences and to continuing to foster exchanges of experiences among our Coalition partners.”
Albert Magalang, Head of the Climate Change Office of the Philippines and Co-chair of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition said:
“Joining hands with all the partner countries and organizations of CCAC, it is with gladness that we welcome India as the newest partner of the Coalition. India has a great story to share with the whole world in its move to beat air pollution and to mitigate climate change. India’s participation in the Coalition is a great addition to the ever-growing partnership in our fight for clean air and climate change. We are looking forward to the experiences, stories, and knowledge India will impart to the Coalition. Again, welcome aboard, India!”
Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, said India’s leadership and participation in the Coalition would be vital to achieving the Coalition goals to reduce air pollution and keep globally to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.
“We look forward to working with India on practical steps to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and air pollution. India is already taking the initiative through its National Clean Air Programme and in key sectors like transportation, household energy and waste management,” Ms Molin Valdés said. “These activities and cooperation between partners will highlight India’s leadership and international outreach in the global effort to fight air pollution and climate change.”
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary global partnership of 65countries, 17 intergovernmental organizations, and 56 businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations committed to catalyzing concrete, substantial action to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, including methane, black carbon and many hydrofluorocarbons.
The Coalition has 11 initiatives working to raise awareness, mobilize resources and lead transformative actions in key sectors. Reducing short-lived climate pollutants can provide benefits to health, development, and the environment; implementing these initiatives can prevent more than 2.5 million premature deaths from air pollution every year. These actions must go hand-in-hand with deep and persistent cuts to carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases if we are to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
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