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Ethical Travelers Shape World’s Largest Industry

CaboVerdeTree

Giant trees are just one of the many unique sights on the Atlantic island chain of Cabo Verde. (Photo by Frans Neve) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BERKELEY, California, January 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Each year, Berkeley-based nonprofit Ethical Traveler searches the world to find the 10 most ethical destinations that beckon visitors with forward-thinking policies, excellent tourism infrastructure, outstanding natural beauty, and welcoming cultures.

A project of the nonprofit Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler hosted responsible travelers Sunday evening at a reception to honor the winners of the 2017 Ethical Destinations Awards.

The 2017 Ethical Destinations Award winners, in alphabetical order, not ranked, are:

•             Belize

•             Cabo Verde

•             Chile

•             Costa Rica

•             Dominica

•             Mongolia

•             Palau

•             Tonga

•             Uruguay

•             Vanuatu

By no means evenly distributed around the world, five of the destinations are in Latin America, and four of them are islands. There is only one located in Asia. None are in Europe or North America and none are on the African or Australian continents.

An article authored by Ethical Traveler’s Molly Blakemore, Karen Blansfield, Morgan Lance and Natalie Lefevre with Jeff Greenwald explaining the reasons behind the selection of this year’s 10 most ethical destinations also sketches the financial underpinnings of the travel industry.

Travel is more than an opening for good will,” the authors say. “It is one of the world’s most powerful economic engines, and can drive the way countries treat their citizens, indigenous peoples, wildlife and the environment.

They point out that travel is the world’s largest industry, with a trillion-dollar annual footprint.

This means that travelers have enormous power. Where we put our footprints has reverberations reaching far beyond our personal experience. By voting with our wings, choosing our destinations well and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats, we can help to change the world for the better,” the Ethical Traveler authors say hopefully.

Every year, Ethical Traveler volunteers review the policies and practices of over 100 developing countries. The group then chooses the 10 that they believe are doing the best at promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare, while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus or individuals in the creation of its annual list.

Now – let’s travel!

Costa Rica scored highest in environmental protection among the 2017 Ethical Destinations, a big improvement from last year, followed by Chile and Dominica.

The Central American country plans to go carbon neutral by 2021, and officials claim it has reached 81 percent of its goal. According to a report by its National Centre for Energy Control, Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between July and August of 2016.

The global refugee crisis continued in full force of need this year. In response, Costa Rica, along with eight other North and Central American countries, made a formal commitment to shelter and improve protections for refugees.

Costa Rica is also one of the few countries that are “actively and sincerely trying to combat the human trafficking epidemic by arresting and breaking up the criminal groups responsible,” write the Ethical Traveler volunteers.

Costa Rica did not make it to the Top 10 last year because no progress was made on preventing turtle egg poaching, and Costa Rica’s president had expressed his intent to weaken endangered shark protections.

While there are still indications of ongoing sales of sea turtle eggs in some markets and the nation is under scrutiny for inconsistent support of international conventions on shark protection, there has been some progress, the Ethical Traveler volunteers report.

Costa Rican delegates led international shark conservation measures at a crucial February 2016 shark meeting, and Costa Rica has reached an agreement with Ecuador and Colombia to increase the protection of the migratory routes used by sharks and sea turtles.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has committed to nearly quadrupling Cocos Island National Park, where fishing is restricted to protect sharks.

The island countries of Barbados and Palau attained perfect ratings in air quality, as did Chile and Uruguay, which also scored 100 percent in forests.

Palau’s President Thomas Remengesau, Jr., a known environmental champion, established the first no-take zone, setting aside 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a national marine sanctuary. He created the Marine Sanctuary Act to protect the oceans and marine life, and he is encouraging other countries to follow that path.

Praising Palau, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “If all nations that purport to support urgent action to protect the biodiversity of the international waters of the world’s oceans from bottom trawl fishing were as consistent and persistent as the Republic of Palau, the deep sea habitats of the high seas would undoubtedly already be safe from high seas bottom trawling.

The island chain that is Cabo Verde juts up from the Atlantic, some 500 km west of Senegal, marked by mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. Cabo Verde has committed to being free from oil-based energy by 2020, and is striving to be at the forefront of developing renewable energy technologies.

Cabo Verde continues progressing towards gender equality. Women now hold nine out of 17 national cabinet positions, and three out of seven seats on the Supreme Court.

Of all the countries on the initial list, Chile scored highest in social welfare, ranking 42nd out of the 187 countries, the Ethical Traveler reports.

Chile also enjoys modern medical care on par with that of the United States, is 28th in world rankings for life expectancy and has a literacy rate of 98 percent.

Uruguay ranks third of 146 countries for environmental sustainability.

So far, Dominica is the leader in renewable energy usage in the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, with its current renewable usage at 28 percent. Its goal is to become fully energy self-sufficient by 2020.

Although the Caribbean island nation of Dominica suffered damage from tropical storm Erika in 2015, the government’s response to the event has been to rebuild schools, shelter displaced citizens and create jobs through road and infrastructure repair.

Dominica has a very high number of people living to over 100 years, and consistently self-reports as one of the happiest nations in the world.

Mongolia, the sole Asian country on the Ethical Traveler’s Top 10 List, has established goals to reduce its carbon footprint by having 30 percent of all energy output be from renewables by 2030, a big increase from its current seven percent.

Mongolia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism has made it clear that the government intends to have reviews and oversight of mining explorations to increase the transparency of those operations.

Belize’s top tourist destination is the country’s barrier reef, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. Vital to the country’s fishing industry, the reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mile) long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second longest reef, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Belize’s government recently endorsed the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2012–2030, a strategic framework for sustainable tourism development.

Belize has several world-leading examples of sustainable tourism, and the Ethical Traveler’s volunteers praised the country’s efforts, saying they were “put forth as a true example of environmentally conscientious and sustainable tourism.

Belize has also committed to the 10-Island Challenge, which challenges nations in the Caribbean to become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy rather than utilizing fossil fuels.

Education is also a priority in Tonga and Dominica, with impressive literacy rates of 99 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively—well above the global average of 84 per cent—and

The Pacific island country of Vanuatu is extending free education through to the age of ten.

In the Freedom House yearly report on civil and political rights, Belize, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Palau, Uruguay, and Mongolia earned the highest possible score while Tonga, and Vanuatu follow with the second highest scores.

These countries are beacons that we hope other developing countries will follow,” writes the Ethical Traveler selection group.

Freedom House is a U.S. based and government funded nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

We’re especially hopeful to see Mongolia move up in the Freedom House rankings, as they made human rights and political freedom a cornerstone of 2016’s parliamentary elections,” the group writes.

Ecuador was included in the top rankings as a Destination of Interest, although it did not make it into the top 10.

While Ecuador does not qualify as a top ethical destination because of serious environmental and human rights issues, we are including it as a Destination of Interest because of the important role of tourism in the recovery of the country after a destructive earthquake in April 2016,” writes the Ethical Travelers volunteer selection group.

Before the earthquake, Ecuador attracted 1.5 million visitors and tourism brought in $1 billion in 2015, making it the fourth biggest source of income for the nation. Because of the high costs of rebuilding the affected areas, Ecuador might otherwise turn to other short-term income generating projects, such as the oil drilling under Yasuní National Park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which was begun in September 2016.

Ecuador has much to offer responsible travelers: the majestic Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest, indigenous and colonial towns, beautiful beaches and the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador won the World Travel Award for South America’s leading green destination and Tren Ecuador’s travel by rail won Best Responsible Tourism Project in the World and Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

So many wonderful places for responsible travelers to visit – so little time!


Featured image: Glorious golden sunrise on a beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica (Photo by Armando Maynez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Sustainability Takes Flight

Aircraft_Istanbul

Airplanes on the tarmac at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, June 30, 2016 (Photo by Caribb) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, August 16, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Every day around the world, more than 100,000 civil aviation flights take off and land – safely for the most part. Now, the global agency responsible for overseeing civil aviation is working to improve the industry’s sustainability.

Sustainability for Civilian Aircraft,” an environmental report released in late July by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), presents the work of more than 600 experts who deal with noise, air quality, climate change, aircraft end-of-life, recycling and climate change adaptation.

This report from ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, titled “On Board a Sustainable Future,” summarizes the progress made over the last three years across key areas of the agency’s environmental protection activities and serves as the reference document for international aviation and the environment.

The ICAO Environmental report is a crucial step that allows aviation to produce policies that lead to peaking emissions in the industry. This report allows for informed policy decisions based on sound science,” said Christina Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The report will provide a strong focus on sustainability as ICAO hosts its 191 member states and industry groups at the ICAO Assembly September 27 to October 7 in Montreal.

ICAO gathers its members in an Assembly at least once every three years. The scenarios presented for the consideration of the Assembly reflect the inputs of: aircraft and engine manufacturers, airlines, air navigation service providers and non-governmental organizations. Panels of independent experts provide unbiased input related to noise, emissions, and operational changes. The effects of traffic growth, fleet turnover, technology improvement, and operational enhancements are captured.

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu of Nigeria, president of the ICAO Council, wrote in his introduction to the report that three years ago the ICAO Assembly, “…reaffirmed the collective aspirational goals of two percent fuel efficiency improvement annually, and carbon neutral growth from 2020.

To progress towards these goals, ICAO is advising member states to employ innovative aircraft technologies, more efficient operations, sustainable alternative fuels, and market-based measures for mitigation of climate changing emissions from the air transport industry.

ICAO’s own market-based measure is still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, wrote Aliu, “ICAO’s leadership role on the environment relies in part on our historic ability to guide and assist those who wish to act to protect the environment, but who may not have the means to do so. In the spirit of our ongoing No Country Left Behind initiative, we will continue to pursue capacity-building and assistance measures towards the more effective implementation of ICAO’s global Standards and Policies, a critical enabler of our broader environmental goals.” 

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu of China wrote in her introduction, “Delivering on an ambitious environmental agenda in response to the mandate received from its Member States, ICAO has evolved its environmental activities into a broader, truly global vision for greener air transport. Sustainable development is at the heart of our strategy…

Turning this vision into action,” wrote Dr. Liu, “ICAO’s current Strategic Objectives contribute to 13 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and our environmental work programme alone contributes to 10 of them. Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, the UN SDGs are our common roadmap to transform our world beyond 2030, and global air transport connectivity is an essential enabler for many of them.

Now for the practical side – making the vision work.

When the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection met in February in Montreal, the 200 participants agreed on a comprehensive set of 17 recommendations that will help ICAO fulfill its mandate on aviation environmental protection.

The set of environmental aircraft design standards cover noise, five pollutants that affect local air quality, and CO2 emissions to protect the global climate.

For the first time the Committee recommended two completely new standards in one meeting:

  • an agreement on a new airplane carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standard
  • an agreement on a new non-volatile Particulate Matter engine emission standard

 The Committee tabled updated trends for CO2, noise and engine emissions and reviewed the technical work to date on a Global Market Based Measure.

They recommended a new publication on “Community Engagement on Aviation Environmental Management,” and established priorities and work programs for the next work cycle in the years 2016-2019.

In the report, Jane Hupe, secretary to the Committee, explained, “The recommended Aeroplane CO2 Emissions Certification Standard is a technology standard with the aim of encouraging more fuel efficient technologies into aeroplane designs. This technology-based approach is similar to the current ICAO engine emissions standards for Local Air Quality and the aircraft noise standards.

The CO2 standard will apply to subsonic jet and turboprop aeroplanes that are new type designs from 2020, as well as to those aeroplane type designs that are in-production in 2023 and undergo a change,” wrote Hupe.

In 2028, there is a production cut-off. Planes that do not meet the standard can no longer be produced from 2028, unless the designs are modified to comply with the standard.

The Committee’s report identifies these trends. “The CO2 emissions that affect the global climate, and emissions that affect local air quality are expected to increase through 2050, but at a rate slower than aviation demand.

Under an advanced aircraft technology and moderate operational improvement scenario, from 2030, aircraft noise exposure may no longer increase with an increase in traffic.

 “International aviation fuel efficiency is expected to improve through 2050, but measures in addition to those considered in this analysis will be required to achieve ICAO’s two percent annual fuel efficiency aspirational goal.

 “Sustainable alternative fuels have the potential to make a significant contribution, but sufficient data are not available to confidently predict their availability over the long term. Also, considering only aircraft technology and operational improvements, additional measures will be needed to achieve carbon neutral growth relative to 2020,” the Committee projects.

Dr. Boubacar Djibo of Niger, director of ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau, wrote in the report, “Alternative fuels are essential to ICAO’s environmental strategy and are an integral part of airlines’ environmental strategies. Indeed, sustainable alternative drop-in fuels are the only practical renewable energy option available for aircraft today. While the technical feasibility, environmental impacts and safety of biofuels have been well-demonstrated, integrated thinking is now required to accompany their large-scale deployment.

The current ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions is one of the most popular tools developed by ICAO. It allows passengers to estimate the emissions attributed to their air travel on the ICAO website and on mobile applications. It is simple to use and only requires a limited amount of information from the user.

To complement the ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions, a method for quantifying air cargo CO2 emissions was recommended by the Committee. This new methodology will predict the CO2 emissions from cargo shipped on board both passenger and dedicated cargo aircraft. This tool will only require information such as origin and destination.

ICAO is a UN specialized agency, established by countries in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon complimented the Committee on its 2016 report, saying, “This edition of the ICAO Environmental Report shows how air transport is well on its way to carrying out forward-looking solutions – and sets out the strategic path for even greater progress.


Featured image:Plane Silhouette,December 20, 2009 (Photo by David Spinks) Creative Commons license via Flickr