Environmental Audit Cttee inquiry into environmental damage of tourism (in UK and by Brits abroad)
Holidaymakers’ responsibility for foul beaches, overcrowding, traffic, plane carbon emissions, harm done by cruises and other environmental impacts will come under parliamentary scrutiny. The Commons Environmental Audit Committee (chaired by the remarkable Mary Creagh) has an inquiry to address problems caused by tourism, including aviation emissions, pollution, habitat damage etc in UK and abroad. Deadline for comments 13th September. It will look at whether the UK government should play a greater role in offsetting the waste and damage caused by the tens of millions of Britons who go on holiday overseas each year – and of the impact on domestic tourism in the UK. The Committee says global tourism is responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions. People do not often consider the environmental, and climate, impacts of their holidays. “While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the government’s actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised.” Due to ever cheaper flights, and zero tax on aviation fuel, the holiday business is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries and accounts for more than 10% of global GDP. Many countries have had to take strict measure to prevent serious damage done by excessive tourism, eg in Philippines, or Venice or Thailand. Or US hiking trails.
Environmental damage of tourism comes under MPs’ spotlight
Inquiry to address problems including aviation emissions and traffic in UK and abroad
By Jonathan Watts (Guardian)
18 Jul 2019
Holidaymakers’ responsibility for foul beaches, overcrowding, traffic, aeroplane emissions and other environmental impacts will come under parliamentary scrutiny.
The inquiry into the environmental cost of tourism and transport will consider whether the UK government should play a greater role in offsetting the waste and damage caused by the tens of millions of Britons who go on holiday overseas each year.
It will also look at ways to reduce the negative consequences of the growing domestic tourism industry, including the hefty carbon footprint of aviation and cruise companies.
According to the Commons environmental audit committee, which launched the inquiry on Wednesday, global tourism is responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Now that summer is here, families are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. But when we book a cruise, flights or visit a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to forget about the environmental impact our holidays are having,” the committee chair, Mary Creagh MP, said.
“While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the government’s actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised.”
Thanks to ever cheaper flights and zero tax on aviation fuel, the holiday business is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries and accounts for more than 10% of global GDP.
But the growing weight of tourists is putting a crushing strain on many of the world’s most popular destinations. The Philippines government had to close the party island of Boracay for six months to clean up the sewage and other filth from unregulated and overstretched resorts.
In Thailand, authorities shut down Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh island to allow the environment to recover from a daily influx of 5,000 tourists and 200 boats since it was made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach.
In the US, a growing horde of backpackers in national parks has clogged up back-country trails and mountain roads, prompting complaints that the search for tranquility has been overtaken by the quest for the perfect selfie. Venice plans to offset the damage with a new tax on the 30 million people who visit the lagoon city every year.
There have been anti-tourism protests in many cities, including Barcelona, and an increasing tendency to blame accidents on the industry, most notably in the wake of the Venice cruise ship collision.
Despite such complaints, the tourist business is expected to continue expanding. In Britain, tourism is the fastest-growing industry. Authorities expect the sector to expand by 3.8% a year up until 2025 and account for more than a tenth of all jobs.
Last year, 37.9 million overseas visitors arrived in the UK – the seventh most popular destination in the world – which puts a substantial burden on the climate and calls into question the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The committee will study the industry and report next year on ways to reduce the impacts by using incentives, taxation, offsets and greater scrutiny of corporate claims to provide sustainable or eco-friendly packages.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, said she hoped the inquiry would also review plans to expand airport capacity in the UK and reconsider subsidies that make air travel cheaper than train journeys.
“How we travel can make a major difference to the environmental impact of our holidays, yet far too often the greener options are less affordable. That must urgently change if the UK is serious about the climate emergency, yet the government is failing even to acknowledge the problem – instead supporting a third runway at Heathrow as well as reckless airport expansion elsewhere in the UK.
“This inquiry will allow us to focus on positive policy solutions as well as the environmental problems associated with travel and tourism.”
The Environmental Audit Committee inquiry:
Committee investigates environmental impact of travel and tourism
The Environmental Audit Committee launches an inquiry into sustainable tourism, looking at both the impacts of tourism and travel on the environment and how these can be reduced.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, accounting for ten percent of global GDP and just under ten percent of total employment. Done well, it can help economic growth, environmental protection and poverty alleviation.
However, the growth in international and domestic travel has caused pressure in terms of carbon emissions, resource management and can have negative impacts on local communities and cultural assets if not managed properly. This can lead to the physical degradation of popular sites and higher rents, congestion and air pollution in some cities. These pressures are known as ‘overtourism’ and harm local communities and the visitor experience.
Travelling by plane or ship causes local air and water pollution, noise and greenhouse gas emissions. The tourism industry accounts for an estimated five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The amended UK Climate Change Act includes aviation and shipping emissions in the new net zero target. The Committee will seek views on travel choices to inform the Government’s forthcoming aviation strategy to 2050.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:
“Now that summer is here, families are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. But when we book a cruise, flights or visit a popular tourist destination, it’s easy to forget about the environmental impact our holidays are having.
“The recent cruise ship collision in Venice, as well as protests both there and in Barcelona, are a sharp reminder of the effects of ‘overtourism’ and the damage that can be done to the environment and local quality of life.
“The industry adds five percent to global greenhouse emissions, putting our net zero by 2050 target at risk. While there are some sustainable practices, we want to look closely at the Government’s actions to ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised. We will publish a report early next year.”
Terms of reference
The Committee is inviting written evidence submissions on some or all of the following points to inform its inquiry:
- What can the Government do to support a sustainable inbound tourism industry in the UK?
- How should the UK tourism industry balance the need to encourage tourism whilst protecting fragile environments?
- How well is the UK industry managing the impact of tourism in line with its obligations under the sustainable development goals, at home and abroad?
- Should the UK Government take more responsibility for the impacts of outbound tourism, for example waste and resource management, protecting habitats and species and community and cultural impacts?
- How can the Government reach its net zero emissions targets through influencing sustainable travel patterns? Is there a role for offsets in sustainable tourism?
- Where should the balance lie between affordable travel and influencing sustainable travel choices? Are taxes and incentives needed?
- How effective are sustainable tourism practices by large tourism companies such as cruise ship and package holiday operators
Ever increasing numbers of city-breaks and short holidays ruining cities – and the climate
With rising affluence in much of the world, and flying being unrealistically cheap (as it pays no fuel duty, and almost no other taxes) people want as many short holidays and city breaks as they can get. This is starting to have very negative impacts on some of the cities most visited, eg. Barcelona. Growth is relentless. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) even speaks about tourism as a right for all citizens, and their forecasts suggest increases from 1 billion international travellers today, to 1.8 billion by 2030. But there is a huge price to pay in carbon emissions from all these trips and holidays, most of which is the flights. Short breaks therefore, pollute more per night than longer breaks. And you can fit more into your year. “The marketing department might prefer a Japanese tourist to Barcelona because on average they will spend €40 more than a French tourist – according to unpublished data from the Barcelona Tourist Board – but the carbon footprint we collectively pay for is not taken into account.” People are being persuaded by advertising and marketing, and a change in ethos of society, to take more short holidays – not one longer one. A report in 2010 suggested that makes people the happiest. More trips = more carbon emissions.
IPBES report on global biodiversity loss. Comment on impact of tourism
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has published a report on the serious global loss of biodiversity. IPBES says: “Long-distance transportation of goods and people, including for tourism, have grown dramatically in the past 20 years with negative consequences for nature overall. The rise in airborne and seaborne transportation of both goods and people, including a threefold increase in travel from developed and developing countries in particular, has increased pollution and significantly raised invasive alien species… Between 2009 and 2013, the carbon footprint from tourism rose 40% to 4.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide and overall 8% of the total greenhouse-gas emissions are from transport and food consumption that are related to tourism. The demand for nature-based tourism, or ecotourism, also has risen, with mixed effects on nature and local communities, including some potential for contributions to local conservation in particular when carried out at smaller scales.”