CLIMATE change, climate change and climate change, the phrase has become a ghastly foe of the world. Now, the world seems dismally repentant for this change, which might destroy civilization through environmental collapse. Who is responsible? Everyone is, has to be, conscious to face the demon (in the shape of Sidr?). Climate change has also been highlighted in the memo of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. So much so that governmental tourism organisations made sure that enough time was committed to discussing the issue at the recently concluded World Travel Market in London.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation fervently wanted to do something unprecedented, and made history by facilitating the first tourism ministers' summit on tourism and global warming at the World Travel Market in London.
Before the summit, the UNWTO advertised the London summit by saying that it believed that addressing the consequences and causes of global warming was the main strategic priority, since the tourism sector was impacted by this global phenomenon and, at the same time, contributed to it through greenhouse emissions.
The world's environmentalists keep asking the United Nations to frame a strategy to fight against the challenge of climate change coherent with the Millennium Development Goals.
Tourism is a pivotal part of our society, economic growth and the war on poverty. The London Summit has put a ministerial seal on the Davos Declaration held on October: "Our commitment that tourism will be at the leading edge of the global response on climate change."
The idea for the meeting was to outline a "ministerial declaration" to be put to the UNWTO's General Assembly, which is to go on in the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena. But, what has the meeting accomplished? After five hours of speeches and discussions, in which some delegations made specific comments and requests to Frangialli, the secretary, to report on them at the ongoing UNWTO General Assembly and at the upcoming Bali summit in December, 2007.
A "ministerial declaration" was not outlined. Instead, a one-pager listing the meeting's conclusions took the place of an official declaration.
On that one-page conclusion, the UNWTO stated that the London summit participants "strongly endorse the Davos Declaration and urge all tourism stakeholders to follow its recommendations." The Davos Declaration, which was drafted by environmental experts who met in Davos, Switzerland last month, states that:
- Climate is a key resource for tourism, and the sector is highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change and global warming, many elements of which are already being felt. Tourism is estimated to contribute some 5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
- Tourism, business and leisure, will continue to be vital components of the global economy, important contributors to the MDG, and integral, positive elements in our society.
- Given tourism's importance in the global challenges of climate change and poverty reduction, there is a need to urgently adopt a range of policies which encourages truly sustainable tourism that reflects the "quadruple bottom line" of environment, social, economic and climate responsiveness.
- The tourism sector must rapidly respond to climate change within the evolving UN framework, and progressively reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) contribution if it is to grow in a sustainable manner.
Various countries added their statements to the UNWTO one-pager. The Maldives delegation, for instance, suggested "undertaking awareness activities on the importance of climate change."
For a country that was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami, this statement does not seem pro-active enough, compared to the speech given by Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda, whose country was also a victim of the India Ocean tsunami.
"What can we on our own do, and the collective conscience of the world do, to ensure that we can make a real and solid difference?" Moragoda asked. "In tourism, little Sri Lanka has come up with a lead initiative, with a resolve to make the island nation a carbon neutral destination. 'Towards A Carbon Clean Sri Lanka: A Tourism Earth Lung' is the thrust we have initiated."
According to the Sri Lankan minister, Sri Lanka is seeking to establish codes of practice for each of the industry sub-sectors via the earth lung initiative. It also seeks to influence and even lead efforts at stopping de-forestation, ensuring re-forestation, encouraging the use of alternative energy sources, and eliminating pollution at the sources through local and regional efforts, thus creating an "earth lung community."
Bangladesh has also agreed with the dos and don'ts of the Summit for facing climate change. It has urged international support to safeguard the country's tourism industry against the peril of climate change.
Our Tourism Advisor Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin said: "The international community needs to provide environmentally vulnerable and low-lying countries with financial and technical support to help them adapt at to the challenges of global climate change."
We need to form a policy for environment friendly tourism development very soon. Like Sri Lanka, we may have to make bold declarations like "Green Bangladesh: No Cyclone," or "25% re-forestation by 2020," or "Kill environment, kill yourself." We need to promote the concept of sustainable and responsible tourism widely before inviting foreign or local investors in the sector.
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