Tuesday 25 October 2022

Tourism declares a climate emergency (and so do I)

This blog post is a bit different to my usual sharings. It's about a subject close to my heart - climate action - and how it relates to travel, which can be a prickly subject for those of us who make our living from encouraging people to travel, at a time when we all really, truly need to cut our emissions in every aspect of our lives.

I feel so strongly about this that today I'm signing Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency

First, a bit of backstory. 

In January 2020, when the world didn't yet know it was on the brink of shutting down because of a global pandemic, a small group of UK-based travel professionals, inspired by cities and towns all over the world declaring a climate emergency, launched an ambitious initiative to tackle the tourism industry's contribution to the climate crisis.

Tourism Declares was a bold move and, in hindsight, quite beautifully timed. For although the entire travel industry unpacked its bags in March 2020 and stayed home for two years, this enforced pause gave us all time to think deeply, and widely, about the way we'd all been travelling. For those of us working in travel, it was also a chance to rethink travel in all its forms, and reflect on our values and attitudes towards the planet.

I've mentioned Tourism Declares on this blog before and always planned to sign up. Then Covid hit and my tiny house project consumed my life (in a good way!) and with Australia's borders closed and no travel plans, there seemed little point in promising to limit my travel emissions.

Now, with travel back in action, in a big way, it seems a good time to make this commitment. 

This post is a formal record of my commitment. I here declare that:

I strongly support the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050. 

I vow to do whatever I can, in my ongoing work as a travel writer, to promote travel that aligns with this commitment and align my own actions with the latest scientific recommendations to stop the planet warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100. 

I formally agree to collaborate with other Tourism Declares and Glasgow Declaration signatories in any way that is helpful to this cause.


Of course Covid let me off the travel hook for the past three years. Still, while some of my colleagues and friends have been jumping on planes to travel far and wide since Australia's borders opened earlier this year, I've stayed put - partly to focus on writing a book, partly because earlier this year catastrophic flooding in northern NSW, where I live, made the climate crisis frighteningly real. After that, it's hard to try to pretend that it's "business as usual" for travel - or for any industry. 

In practical terms, I've strived to contribute to a decarbonised travel industry by:

  • Writing almost exclusively about sustainable, responsible or regenerative travel since borders reopened earlier this year - and I plan to continue for as long as possible. Two of my latest stories are about tourism pledges and the rise of regenerative travel.
  • Not flying for almost three years - no overseas flights, no domestic flights (my last flight was for a work trip to Myanmar in December 2019).
  • Reducing my own travel-related emissions by limiting my travel outside the local area for the past three years - during which I co-built a tiny house and started on a book project instead!
  • Being an active member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers' (ASTW) Sustainability Committee, finding ways to help the ASTW operate more sustainably and promoting sustainable travel in all its forms to our members, who in turn influence the travelling public in Australia and elsewhere.
  • Helping the ASTW sign the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism, earlier this year, with the support of 93 per cent of our members. We're now developing a climate action plan to make this commitment practical.
  • Prioritising work assignments that have a sustainable focus and/or require little or no air travel. 

I also try to live as simply, ethically and sustainably as possible by, for instance: being vegetarian; living in a tiny house (pictured at left) for more than a year and a half now - which helps reduce my energy use; most of the electricity I use is solar-generated); and volunteering at my local Landcare group and Community Garden, which helps to reduce carbon emissions by planting trees and maintaining native bushland, and by growing organic food locally.

And I will of course seek to do more (or less, where appropriate!) and decarbonise further whenever possible. 

Want to join Tourism Declares? It's for anyone who works in the travel industry - as an individual or as part of an organisation, government department or travel company, even for those who work in hotels and other accommodation and service providers, anywhere in the world - and it's absolutely free. You can find out more here. And if you work in another industry, find an organisation that can help you reduce your emissions there and spread the word. We're all in this together (as I've said before but, you know, it's true!).

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