Climate Change and the Need to Support Tourism SMEs in the Poorest Countries

Created: Wednesday, January 19, 2022, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am

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By Professor Geoffrey Lipman, President SUNX Malta

In addition to the ongoing drama of an intensifying Pandemic, 2021 also underscored the magnitude of our creeping, existential global Climate Crisis.  Weather extremes affected communities on all continents – crazy floods in Germany, Canada, and China: massive forest fires in Australia, Greece, and the USA: droughts in part of Africa: Typhoons in the Pacific and the Atlantic.  As a result, there were increasing numbers of Climate refugees.

The Glasgow COP 26 in November kept Climate on the public agenda.  We saw a Glasgow Tourism Declaration.  Also, unveiled has been a Code Red Tourism Plan for children, calling for the tourism sector to go further, faster. This plan calls for 50% fewer carbon emissions by 2030 and absolute Zero Greenhouse Gas (GHG) by 2050.  Not just carbon dioxide, but also the more potent methane, sulfur, and nitrous compounds. And it’s absolute zero, not some vague “net,” that kicks the can down the 2050 Road.

Support Tourism SMEs
Image: Yay Images

The Code Red Tourism plan also comes with a United Nations-linked Registry for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Climate plans for tourism companies & communities; a network of SDG17 Partners for support services; a team of trained graduate Strong Climate Champions to help navigate the new transformation terrain and a distinct Climate Friendly Travel badge for travelers.

This highly ambitious approach is based on science, weather, and young climate activists’ reality checks. According to the International Energy Agency, despite the massive economic slowdown in 2019, global GHG emissions still increased some 6%.

The Paris Climate Agreement goal was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – we’ve already hit 1.2 degrees Celsius increase in just five years, and, at this rate, are headed towards 3o – which is inhospitable for human and animal life.  And this is without any “feedback loops”, like the splitting of major Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets and associated, dramatic sea level rises or the melting of the permafrost in northern Europe and Russia with the release of large amounts of methane.

Plan for 2022

It’s imperative we continue to ring the Code Red Alarm Bell for COP 27 in Egypt in November 2022.  This is a meeting in Africa where so many of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) are located and where young people make up 60% of the population. To quote Greta Thunberg, “These are the ones who will have to clean up our mess”

To help LDCs in general, we propose the establishment of a new Strong Climate Friendly Travel Facility.  This will support tourism SMEs in the world’s poorest countries to build climate disaster resilience while reducing their Green House Gas emissions following a Paris 1.5 scenario.

These “Base of the Economic Pyramid” states are places where tourism is a common socio-economic asset.  And tourism is a great product – it doesn’t need export licenses; the market comes to the producer; promotion is easy, especially in the Metaverse; and LDC’s have some of the least spoiled, nature-based tourism opportunities.

Yet tourism also has a stark vulnerability that COVID exposed, as borders closed and lockdown decimated travel.  For a sector that drives some 10% of the global economy, trade and jobs – up to 50% in many small developing states – the market dried up overnight.   SMEs, who form some 80% of the tourism supply chain, were particularly badly hit. They have few resources to fall back on, and typically little or no insurance cover.  They have a priority need for emergency financial relief in the case of systemic natural disasters – such as health, extreme weather, biodiversity collapse, etc. – because of the knock-on effect travel disruption has across national and international socio-economic structures. These realities are valid in all countries and particularly impactful in the 46 LDC’s

The proposed new Strong Climate Friendly Travel Facility (aiming for launch at COP 27) will be an innovative “mixed fund” with both financial & in-kind components, sourced from public, private sources in Tourism, Finance & Insurance communities, with special focus on Impact Investment, Government Green Bonds and even Traveler carbon offset funding. It’s certainly not meant to replace traditional government emergency response funding, but rather to complement it and demonstrate that the sector can itself prepare for a tough future in a positive way.

Extreme weather events continue to increase and tourism SMEs in the world’s poorest countries need support. Let’s hope that everyone can pull together to provide the help they need, as we continue to battle climate change.

Professor Geoffrey Lipman
Professor Geoffrey Lipman is co-founder and President of SUNx Malta, an EU-based, not-for-profit organization, established as a legacy for Maurice Strong, climate and sustainability pioneer and partnered with the government of Malta. SUNx Malta created the ‘Green & Clean, Climate Friendly Travel System’ which is designed to help Travel & Tourism companies and communities transform to the new Climate Economy. The program is based on reducing carbon, meeting Sustainable Development Goals, and matching the Paris 1.5C trajectory. It is action and education-focused – supporting today’s companies and communities to deliver on their climate ambitions and encouraging tomorrow’s young leaders to prepare for rewarding careers across the travel sector.

SUNx Malta (Strong Universal Network) is a legacy initiative for the late Maurice Strong Climate & Sustainability trailblazer half a century ago. it is an EU NGO partnered with Malta’s Ministry of Tourism and Consumer Protection and its Tourism Authority advocating “Climate Friendly Travel – low carbon: SDG linked: Paris 1.5.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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