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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Responding to Climate Change with Concrete Action

Carbon free destinations and interactive "eTourism" tools to advance a coherent response to climate challenge, are among the proposals discussed at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism held in Davos, Switzerland. UNWTO calls on all private and public stakeholders in tourism to factor climate change into their decision-taking process. UNWTO advocates adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, while maintaining its commitment to reducing extreme poverty and fostering sustainable development, as laid out in the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Increased awareness for climate change and its solutions can be advanced through web-based tools which highlight destinations offering more climate friendly tourism choices, as travel information is increasingly becoming web-oriented. Changing consumption behaviour, for example, by encouraging carbon neutral travel, will be promoted through the UNWTO eTourism Climate Change Award.

This initiative is a global first as it links tourism response to climate change with the latest state of the art information and communications technology. It is also among the practical outcomes of UNWTO's public-private-partnership signed with Microsoft and acknowledges best practice responses to climate change in order to stimulate innovation and change of behaviour to global warming.

The pilot trial for this award will be held at the Canadian Tourism Commission's "Canada-e-Connect", the 1st Canadian eTourism Strategy Conference & eTourism Awards in Vancouver, Canada, 7-9 November, 2007. Each entry will be reviewed by a panel of experts selected by UNWTO, which will certify and promote the winners.

Carbon Free Destinations

The Tourism Industry needs to prepare for a possible change in tourism demand as a response to climate change. With transport as one of the most visible contributors to global warming, increased awareness regarding climate change might induce tourists to switch from long haul to short haul destinations. But these shifts could potentially harm least developed countries, most of which depend heavily on tourism income - 46 of the 49 poorest countries of the world rely on international tourism as their primary source of foreign exchange earnings.

During the Davos Conference Sri Lanka announced the initiative Earth Lung - Carbon Free Sri Lanka. This practical policy response represents a bridge across the trade-off between environmental awareness and tourism's pro-development potential.

As a small country which depends heavily on long-haul travel to generate tourism income, Sri Lanka is facing up to the climate challenge and aims at becoming the first carbon neutral destination. As its tropical forest systems can store large amounts of carbon which otherwise would add to the CO2 in the atmosphere, Sri Lanka aspires to be a travel and tourism Earth Lung.

With its commitment to a range of LULUCF-activities (Land Use, Land Use Change & Forestry) associated with appropriate Carbon Offset Programs (COP), "this initiative has both real and symbolic value and we hope other countries and stakeholders to join the Earth Lung Community to create a global framework that will contribute to the overall UN response to climate change", said UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General, Geoffrey Lipman.

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