Will you, the traveler, take your tourist money to a country that is working towards a sustainable planet through carbon neutrality? Or will you, the traveler, take your tourist money to a country that couldn’t care less?
Hear me out.
This blog is written to inform, not to encourage travel amidst a pandemic.
The tourism industry is easily the most powerful, influential industry in the world. Businesses in the industry have growing pressure to choose a course of action: build services and products that either impact the globe positively or negatively.
We see this with airlines as they begin to use more carbon-efficient planes. Some accommodations are becoming more eco-friendly. However, not all businesses in the travel industry are making these changes.
As the tourism industry evolves, its direction is ultimately guided by the foundational business principle: supply and demand. What are cities around the world demanding? What are tourists demanding? Who has more power in this situation?
You Have the Power
The answer is: the tourist, you. You are bringing the money to a country’s economy. You are the one demanding what you want to see from the tourist industry. That is why it’s so important for you, the tourist, to be responsible when choosing sustainable travel destinations, accommodations, and activities. Your choices literally dictate the way the industry functions around the world.
The tourism industry is an influential and powerful global force, but like its businesses, it listens to the consumer (the tourist). This makes every tourist, individually and collectively, an influential and powerful global force. Tourists have the power to make big change.
By choosing a more sustainable destination, accommodation, or transportation method, you are demanding for more sustainable destinations, accommodations, and transportation methods.
No Planet, No Tourism
Sustainable tourism has 4 pillars: environmental, social, cultural, and economic sustainability. Although they are all important, environmental sustainability has become an urgent need as the climate crisis continues to escalate.
Many destinations are our favorites because of the surrounding environment. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii’s iconic beaches and hikes, and Asia’s Himalayan Mountains are just a few famous examples.
However, we see these locations dying before our eyes. The Great Barrier Reef is constantly bleaching. Hawaii’s biological diversity is reducing. Mount Everest is crumbling. All of our most prized destinations are falling victim to climate change and, honestly, poor tourism practices. For example – bleaching is caused by highly concentrated chemicals often found in sunscreen by vacationing beach-goers, and icy mountains crumble because they cannot sustain thousands of tourists climbing a trail at once.
If these places (along with many, many others) are being ruined, there’s nothing left to see.
You Have Options
Tourism should be a good thing. It gives the world a chance to see other communities and appreciate new perspectives. We should embrace tourism and use it as a force for good. We can use tourism to work together as one global community to make the necessary change toward global sustainability and carbon neutrality.
The good news is that there are a bunch of countries and cities that have declared their projected targets toward carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability within the next 30 years. These are locations that tourists should be supporting! Plus, the presence of tourists in these destinations will not impact the local and global environment nearly as much as the presence of tourists in the less sustainable destinations.
By supporting these locations, you are taking steps toward supporting this country’s initiatives for a better world. In the spirit of business and industry, make sustainable initiatives your demand and force destinations to supply it.
But, if you decide against one of these travel destinations, you can still influence demand by being mindful in what businesses you choose to support in less sustainable countries. By shopping at local stores and staying in locally-run accommodations, you are investing your tourist money in the local community and supporting more sustainable travel practices in destinations that really need them.
Countries Who Care about Carbon Neutrality
Here is a short list of the best performing on the rankings – find the rest by reading the index.
The worst…? Keep reading.
Thank you ClimateChangeNews.com for some of the below information.
In 2017, Sweden announced that they were going carbon neutral by 2045. Stockholm aims to help by gradually eliminating fossil-fuel use. Get specific details and data here.
In 2018, Denmark proclaimed their targets for carbon neutrality by 2050. They plan to do that largely by outlawing new diesel cars in 2030 and encouraging the use of electric cars. Copenhagen targets to cut emissions 100% by 2025 via energy consumption, energy production, mobility, and city administrative initiatives. Get details and data here.
Major political parties in Finland agreed to strengthen ecological policies in 2019. They plan to massively restrict industrial logging and peat burning to power heating for buildings. Helsinki plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. Get details and data here.
Switzerland announced its target for carbon neutrality in 2019. They plan to reach their target by 2050 while simultaneously inventing technology that reduces carbon dioxide in the air. Specific city data not available at this time.
Is Anyone Completely Carbon Neutral?
Yes – Bhutan is the only country in the world who is carbon neutral. Some say they have achieved (or are pretty close to) carbon-negativity.
Much of the reason is because most of the country is covered in forest, which absorbs the carbon that is produced. And, rather than basing the country’s success on its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it bases it on Gross National Happiness (GNH). This means less focus on profit-based growth and more on general well-being while the economy follows suit.
Read more about Bhutan here.
Who’s at the Bottom?
Who are the countries who couldn’t care less? Japan, Australia, Poland, Russia, Canada, Korea, and the United States are among the bottom-ranked in the CCPI. These countries have refused to implement climate policy or have backed out of major climate change coalitions such as the famous 2015 Paris Agreement.
Notice a pattern in that list? Some of these countries are major industrial leaders. However, the era of traditional industrialization is ending as our rampant growth jeopardizes the planet. Linear economy is out of date, and circular economy is rising to the top.
Here’s a great 4-5 minute video if you’d like to learn more:
You Have the Information
Tourism is changing for the better. You have the knowledge to make smart choices about what type of industry you want to support. Remember, you have significant power as a tourist in other countries that depend on you for their GDP. You can make a huge difference, so be smart when choosing who to give tourist money to!
But, if you choose to visit a less sustainable destination, you have a chance to support the right people within the community.
Happy travels and enjoy your own exploration project!
Want to know how to be a good tourist in a less sustainable destination?
Use this as an example: How to be Great Tourists in Hawaii.