Published on Friday, October 16, 2009

Carbon offset option removed by responsibletravel.com



 

 
A facility for customers to offset carbon emissions is to be removed from the website of sustainable holidays travel agency responsibletravel.com.
The company was among the first travel organisations to introduce carbon offsets seven years ago, but is now one of the first to remove them for environmental reasons.
Managing director Justin Francis said: "We have thought long and hard about how we can continue to offer our customers the leading advice they expect from a responsible tourism business when it comes to the fast growing impact of flying on the environment.
"We believe that the travel industry's priority must be to reduce carbon emissions, rather than to offset.
"Too often offsets are being used by the tourism industry in developed countries to justify growth plans on the basis that money will be donated to projects in developing countries. Global reduction targets will not be met this way."
Francis said he agreed with a recent report by Friends of the Earth which labelled offsets as a 'dangerous distraction".

"Carbon offsets distract tourists from the need to reduce their emissions. They create a 'medieval pardon' for us to carry on behaving in the same way (or worse)."
The company has sought advice from Friends of the Earth to put in place a clear, alternative 'carbon caution' for travellers offering advice and tips.

Francis summarises responsibletravel.com's advice to travellers, saying: "Ultimately we need to reduce our carbon emissions. We can do this by flying less - travelling by train or taking holidays closer to home for example, and by making carbon reductions in other areas of our lifestyles too, alongside travel.
 
"There is no hiding the fact that tourists will continue to want to visit destinations requiring a flight, and that tourism contributes to livelihoods, local economic development and the conservation of the world's cultural and natural heritage. We will continue to offer a more responsible choice of overseas holiday so that when tourists do fly they can 'make their holiday count' by choosing a more responsible holiday."
 
Alongside the new advice page, responsibletravel.com aims to help responsible travellers by offering:
*More than 200 UK holidays. The UK is now the best selling destination on the website as many of its UK-based customers chose to holiday closer to home.
 
*The functionality to book train tickets to reach their holiday destination.
*A special section dedicated to holidays whose organisers have gone that extra mile in helping travellers choose more environmentally friendly methods of transport.
*Thousands of holidays around the world that work towards reducing their carbon footprint within destinations as much as possible.
 by Phil Davies
 

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  • It's the Green Economy Stupid

    The debate on climate change and offsets is interesting but misses a few points. 1) It's not about offsetting or reducing emissions - obviously the latter is the key but there is no evidence that providing offsets deters the industry from seeking low carbon solutions or that it makes consumers complacent. In fact there is a case that it is one way to bring the carbon impacts of their actions to their attention. And if the funds are properly used they can make a contribution to ghg reduction, conservation and poverty alleviation 2) There are too many compelling business and regulatory pressures that will make industry act responsibly over time (incentives and penalties) what is important is to ensure mechanisms are in place to provide targets (from the UNFCCC process) and that there are effective monitoring systems to keep everyone on track. Governments will no doubt do this because apart from anything else they see revenue potential. Most importantly the monies collected as penalties must be definitively earmarked for climate response unlike the alleged environmentally responsive APD in the UK. 3) There is no valid reason for requiring aviation to move further and faster than other sectors but every reason to expect it to be part of the global industrial leadership process. 4) There are very valid reasons for ensuring that on routes where there can be no substitution of air travel, any reduction in aviation takes account of the total impact of reducing air travel ie the economic, the social and the poverty alleviation aspects. In simple terms you can't take a train to the Caribbean or cycle to Fiji. 5) And if helping the poor countries is rightly a global priority, and if responsible tourism is arguably the best way to do that then there is a very good case for strongly advocating MORE FLIGHTS to those "long haul" countries and making reductions on the dense routes in Europe, the US and other markets where substitution is feasible. 6) The aviation greenhouse gas impacts (and tourism as a whole) must be seen in real perspective - ie 2 per cent of carbon and perhaps another percent of other gases compared to 30-40% for stationary energy and 15-20% for deforestation. Flying is not a sin. It is an economy stimulating, people connecting, trade enabling, force for good. 7) There are good reasons to believe that technology, innovation and smarter operations as well as substitution will allow the aviation sector to meet post Kyoto targets (which as yet are still under negotiation). The initiatives by IATA and the manufacturers to set emission reduction targets are a good step in the right direction and are no doubt capable of adjustment to meet such levels. 8) In all of this, what must be remembered in climate terms is the timeline for reduction to achieve the magic below 2 degrees warming by 2050. Namely starting in 2012 and aiming for 20-40% reduction by 2020 and 60-80% reduction by 2050. 9) Last but by no means least the G20 with strong support from the international community is setting a course for transformation to a global Green Economy - in which all facets of consumption: production: investment and labour will become driven by low carbon, renewable and energy efficient actions. Against that background the fact that responsible travel doesn"t think that offsets are a sensible way forward takes on a more realistic perspective. Off sets are just part of the mix but an important one in the medium term for flights over water, long distances, developing country destinations.and particularly small island states whose economies and development patterns depend on tourism. Geoffrey Lipman

    By Geoff Lipman, Wednesday, October 21, 2009

  • Industry still at base camp

    Another comment string at Travelmole on carbon emissions and travel and the same exchange of pro and anti views, but sadly we are no closer to concerted action. Possibly because there has been insufficient debate on the issues, leading to a debate that is still stuck at the "is it really happening?" level. If we leave aside the scientific debate for a second, there are some clear sustainability imperatives for action in relation to travel/tourism that go beyond just carbon. These relate to another 2 billion plus people on the planet in 40 years, limited available fuel, water and food compounded by changing weather patterns. On the available fuel issue we have seen the effect of oil at nearly $150 per barrel. When we get there again there will be cost related demand issues for travel aside from just the constraints of a more regulated carbon environment. The industry needs to address these issues collectively and coherently or face an unpleasant future. To get to global travel/tourism consensus more debate and education is clearly required. Too often the industry looks beyond a problem to the sunny uplands of future prosperity. Even today there is a report suggesting emerging middle classes in developing countries will fuel a tourism surge. Nice idea but not likely if fuel is costly and the airlines that need to support this industry growth are going out of business on the back of multibillion annual losses. Justin Francis' decision is right if belated. Voluntary offsets without reduction are a distraction and will marginally slow not avoid the consequences of excess emissions. Reduction is the only realistic option.

    By Hugo Kimber, Tuesday, October 20, 2009

  • Mankind and Global Warming

    Delighted that we agree global warming is happening! Even Gordon Brown is on the case today. Yes, the earth has natural cooling and warming cycles. Ok, so what do we know (1) we have access to many hundreds of thousands of years of data (ice cores from the poles do this nicely) (2) these show a fluctuating change in certain gases over time (3) we have known about the green house effect of certain gases since the late 1800s (4) however, in recent years the build up of these green house gases has shot off the chart - nearly doubling (5) we know what causes GHG's and the scientistits tell us (not celebrities, nor newspapers...) that global warming is caused by a massive build up of GHG's in the environment - particularly since World War 2. And each year humankind pumps 50 gigatonnes of CO2 each year. This is going to have an effect - right? So none of the above is in dispute - it is now just a question of how and bad and how fast. This is a little challenging given the unknowns surrounding feedback effects. However, the best the scientific community is telling us is 2 degrees if we keep CO2 ppm below 450. And there is no chance of that. Please, forget what the newspapers may or may not say, disregard the celebs, and don't listen to Nigel Lawson either. Read what the scientists are saying. If you want unbiased read the Stern Review (Nicholas Stern is an economist who was asked by the UK government to assess climate change. He published the Stern Report a few years ago and has now stated that the predictions he made then are already out of date and too low).. I will leave you with a question - if there is any doubt then why is every government in every developed (and most developing ) nations trying to implement unpopular actions to deal with this. Don't believe then follow the Copenhagen conference later this year.. It is really scary... we are not doomed (not quite) but get ready for some real discomfort. We are going to suffer, mitigate and adapt... Want to be really frightened then read 6 degrees..... methane balls of fire..

    By James Ramsay, Monday, October 19, 2009

  • HEAT

    I am not on commission, but read George Monbiot's book 'HEAT' for the underpinning evidence well presented and written in an accessible manner. Also try Mark Lynas' book 'Six Degrees'(if you want to be shocked) and Prof Lovelock's 'The Revenge of Gaia'. I am no raving Green, but I am now pretty convinced of the evidence and the need for change. Like others I am having difficulty with the 'what' and the 'how' to change.... answers on a postcard please... Tony

    By Tony Jolley, Monday, October 19, 2009

  • global warming

    I think everyone agrees that Global Warming is happening - I have never said it is not, but the disputed matters are whether human carbon emissions play any relevent role in this whatsoever. Whether right or wrong, I have no idea, and this is part of the problem. The subject seems to have been jumped on by people who don't really know or care if they are right, but merely see it as another "cause" to hate, - Chelsea Tractors, fox hunting (which I always thought should have been banned on the grounds it was taking pleasure from the killing of an animal), animal lab testing, and, yes, Ryanair and the airline industry! It would be interesting to note how many famous celebrities espousing green causes are reverting to flying economy class to cut down on thir carbon emissions ? - very few I would guess. It is hard to find reasonable and unbiased debates. There was a huge article in the Sunday Times last week basically rubbishing the dramatic future rises in sea levels predicted by Al Gore as mathematically impossible, and saying that human carbon emissions was not a significant factor at all in Global Warming. Yes, I still think we should cut down on carbon emissions, but I have no idea and serious doubt as to whether it is anything to do with global warming - or for that matter whether global warming is a good or bad thing. Certainly if you take the extreme - and a choice of another ice age - I think I know which one I would prefer.

    By Nick Cooper, Sunday, October 18, 2009

  • Wrong decision

    OK. Its absolutely correct that the travel and tourist industry should reduce its carbon impact and do this by cutting its carbon emissions. However, to quote FoE's criticism of carbon offsets is absurd and bizarre. Presumably responsible travel is still encouraging tourists to travel (albeit responsibly) and in so doing they will emit green house gases. Except now it is recommending that the individual traveller not bother about cleaning up the resulting emissions. Don't worry about the carbon you have just emitted, let business cut its emissions by a few percent (at best per year). Fabulous, presumably FoE would also say don't travel by air unless strictly necessary. The fact that the scientists tell us we are out of time, and the best we can hope for is a 2 degrees warming (Nick Cooper - seriously there is not a credible scientist alive who disputes that global warming is happening - even the old sceptics have climbed on board) to wait for industry to cut its emissions by a paltry few percent per annum leaves us out of time. We need a minimum 80% by 2050 just to stop at 2 degrees. Look this is not about reduce OR offset. It is about both. We have to throw everything at this. And part of that means travelling an awful lot less - now I don't see much mention of that, but then you never get the turkeys voting for an early Christmas. Bad decision. Hugely irresponsible from an environmental point of view.

    By James Ramsay, Saturday, October 17, 2009

  • Confused

    For reasons that I have no answer for, I do believe that we should reduce carbon emissions. However the more I read about it, and the more I speak to friends who are far more scientific than I am, there are many, many educated people who believe that this global warming / connection to human carbon emissions are a load of rubbish. It would be nice to hear proper debates on this matter.

    By Nick Cooper, Thursday, October 15, 2009

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