Top climate change scientists at World Travel Market will warn travel companies to be more open and honest about the industry’s effect on the environment – or risk losing consumer confidence forever.
In a session entitled Carbon Neutral: Saviour or Scam?, leading environmental experts Dr Shaun Russell and Dr Stefan Gossling will claim operators are misleading the public over the high-profile issue of carbon emissions.
The session coincides with WTM’s World Responsible Tourism Day on November 14, the first global day of action.
Dr Russell, who has 30 years’ experience in the field of conservation and managing protected areas, will reveal the real carbon footprint made by cruise passengers to the fragile Antarctic region.
“In terms of the individual carbon footprint per passenger, the figure is very high,” he said.
Dr Russell manages the British Government-funded UNESCO biosphere reserve of the Cape Horn Archipelago in southern Chile. He previously worked for the British Antarctic Survey team. He is expected to lead a full survey examining the impact of tourism on the continent later next year.
Dr Russell warned cruise companies operating in the Antarctic that the international treaty governing the region could be tightened, which would limit future operations.
He said the large number of tourists visiting the Antarctic was a concern for marine mammals such as whales and seals, and bird life such as penguins. He added that visitors are trampling on fragile areas of vegetation.
“A number of significant historical sites, such as the camps used by Captain Scott and Shackleton, have been painstakingly preserved – and you get people turning up and pinching things,” he said.
“Cruise ships burn diesel and are often not very fuel-efficient, so companies need to address this. Antarctic cruising used to be an elite pastime but now deals are being sold late and at bargain prices.”
Fellow panellist Dr Stefan Gossling – associate professor of sustainable tourism at Lund University, Sweden – will take operators and airlines to task over their promotion of ‘useless’ carbon-offsetting projects.
Dr Gossling said travellers are wasting their money on schemes that have no environmental benefits. He claimed forestry schemes favoured by the industry, which promote planting trees to soak up carbon in the atmosphere, had a debatable scientific value. Instead, projects should invest in renewables.
“Offsetting doesn’t do the issue of carbon emissions justice,” he said. “Take a flight from London to Stockholm and you’ll find a whole range of values for your emissions quoted by different companies.”
The panel session will take place on WTM’s World Responsible Tourism Day, between 12pm-1pm on the Conference Set, Platinum Suite 4, Level 3, and will be chaired by BBC presenter Stephen Sackur.