01 December 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Plane Talk on Climate Change

It has long been a twitchy subject. But now that the Kyoto Protocol’s Conference of the Parties is upon us, it really is time to discuss the climate change impact of long-haul flights.

It has always been an item swept off the discussion menu because tourism is an engine of development and, supposedly, alleviates poverty. And yes, in many cases it does.

But in many cases it does not. Only a certain kind of tourism truly alleviates poverty - Responsible Tourism.

A number of civil society organisations from north and south, including South Africa’s highly respected Fair Trade in Tourism (FTTSA), have produced a position paper on the subject.

Tourism lobbyists claim that climate change-related regulations would rob developing countries of much needed tourism income that uplifts communities.

In a joint press statement, the FTTSA, the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (from Thailand), Naturefriends International, the German Church Development Service, the Swiss Working Group Tourism and Development, say that isn’t necessarily so.

According to the statement, tourism income often doesn’t stay in developing countries, but leaks back to its original investors in the First World. And the poor people seldom benefit - in fact, only a few do, the local elites.

Jennifer Seif of FTTSA says: “In South Africa, we have a range of policies and policy instruments and public-private partnerships that can help to inspire more equitable tourism development on a global scale.”

According to Heinz Fuchs of the German Church Development Service (EED), “It is high time to discuss the impacts of rapid tourism growth on the climate, biodiversity, natural resources and human development in a critical manner. Economic growth is not an end in itself. What we need is a human rights based approach.”

The group will be organising a panel discussion on climate justice and tourism on 5 December as part of COP 17.

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