Carbon offsetting as part of tourism operators’ strategy to mitigate climate change

An analysis of attitudes, preferences and needs of tour operators based on a case study from Namibia

Master's Thesis 2012 129 Pages



Table of Contents


German Abstract - Zusammenfassung


List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Objectives and Research Purpose
1.3 Methodology Outline
1.4 Report Structure

2. Tourism and Climate Change
2.1 Climate Change Background
2.1.1 State of Knowledge
2.1.2 Market Mechanism of Carbon Trading
2.2 Interrelations of Climate Change and Tourism
2.2.1 Tourism’s Contribution to Climate Change
2.2.2 Climate Change’s Impacts on Tourism
2.3 Climate Adaptation Measures in Tourism
2.4 Climate Mitigation Measures in Tourism
2.4.1 Voluntary Carbon Offsetting in Tourism
2.4.2 Voluntary Carbon Markets, Standards and Certifications
2.4.3 Offsetting Projects
2.5 Examples of Climate Initiatives in Tourism
2.6 Travellers’ Awareness and Attitudes Regarding Climate Change
2.7 Research Questions

3. Methodology
3.1 Qualitative Research Approach
3.1.1 Primary Data Collection - Guided Expert Interview
3.1.2 Construction of Interview Guidelines
3.1.3 Selection of interview partners
3.1.4 Transcription and Analysis
3.2 Limitations

4. Tour Operators and Carbon Management
4.1 Introduction
4.1.1 The Role of Tour Operators in Mitigating Climate Change
4.2 Examples of “front running” Tour Operators
4.2.1 The Companies
4.3 Interview results
4.3.1 Tour Operators’ Motivations for Climate Commitment
4.3.2 Customer’ Awareness of Climate Change
4.3.3 Carbon Management and Climate Protection Measures
4.3.4 Communication of Climate Commitment
4.3.5 Acceptance, Feedback and Effects of Climate Protection Activities
4.4 Discussion & Conclusions
4.4.1 Discussion
4.4.2 Conclusions

5. Case Study: Tour Operators and Carbon Offsetting in Namibia
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Key questions and hypotheses
5.3 Introduction to Namibia
5.4 Climate Change in Namibia
5.5 Tourism in Namibia
5.5.1 Overview of Namibia’s Tourism
5.5.2 Namibia’s International Tourists
5.5.3 Tourism Resources
5.5.4 Demand Side
5.5.5 Potential Impacts on Tourism Caused by Climate Change
5.5.6 Tourism Stakeholders at a Glance
5.6 Empirical research
5.6.1 Overview of Tour Operators Interviewed
5.6.2 Research outcomes
5.7 Discussion
5.8 Conclusions and Recommendations
5.8.1 Conclusions
5.8.2 Opportunities and Recommendations

6. Final Remarks

List of References



This study is undertaken with the background that tourism is an active contributor to the man-made climate change and is also vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Apart from climate adaptation measures, the tourism industry needs to develop mitigation strategies to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Tour operators play the key role in climate protection measures in the tourism industry but may also face significant challenges due to climate change. This paper focuses on carbon offsetting as one tool of tour operators’ climate protection activities. Besides a literature analysis, empirical data was collected through qualitative interviews for this study. Two different surveys were undertaken: one with international tour operators that are already active in climate protection and one with tour operators in Namibia. The interviewed companies all used carbon offsetting by either managing an own project to compensate emissions or by cooperating with an offsetting agency. The choice seemed to be founded in each company’s capacity and resources as well as in their basic philosophy. Forestry projects as self-managed offsetting projects were clearly preferred. It was identified that pivotal factors for choosing forestry projects were accessibility for travel groups, tangibility for communication purposes and social benefits for local communities. Several companies indicated growing customer satisfaction or believed their climate commitment would positively influence their bookings. These outcomes were independently of the type of offsetting project the tour operators supported. The study further revealed that general factors for success in climate mitigation are not related to the size of a company, but rather its general commitment to sustainability, a strategic carbon management plan and transparent and comprehensive communication.

The second part of the paper comprises a case study from Namibia in which tour operators’ current awareness and perception of climate change are analysed. Additionally, tour operators’ knowledge and attitude towards carbon offsetting are studied. This study showed that tour operators were overall aware of potential threats for the tourism development in Namibia and considered climate change to become increasingly important in the future for the tourism industry. However, climate protection was not yet a high priority for the companies and only minor steps were taken to reduce carbon emissions. A strong interest in the concept of carbon offsetting was identified as well as the tour operators’ preference in offsetting projects that take place in Namibia and, besides saving GHG emissions, also contribute to poverty alleviation.

German Abstract - Zusammenfassung

Tourismus verursacht Treibhausgase, die zum anthropogen verstärkten Klimawandel beitragen. Gleichzeitig ist die Tourismusindustrie jedoch auch von den Auswirkungen des Klimawandels betroffen. Die Entwicklung von Klimaschutzmaßnahmen im Tourismus zur Reduzierung von Treibhausgasen ist notwendig, zusätzlich zu Maßnahmen zur Anpassung an den Klimawandel. Reiseveranstalter spielen eine Schlüsselrolle bei den Herausforderungen des Klimaschutzes im Tourismus. Die vorliegende Arbeit konzentriert sich auf die Kompensation von Treibhausgasen als eine mögliche Klimaschutzmaßnahme von Reiseveranstaltern. Für diese Studie wurden neben der Auswertung von Sekundärliteratur empirische Daten durch qualitative Interviews gesammelt. Zwei verschiedene Untersuchungen wurden durchgeführt: eine mit internationalen Reiseveranstaltern die bereits im Klimaschutz aktiv sind und eine zweite mit Reiseveranstaltern in Namibia. Ziel des ersten Teils der Studie war es, die Vorteile und Wirkungen verschiedener Möglichkeiten der Treibhausgas-Kompensation herauszufinden, die Reiseveranstalter einsetzen können. Alle der interviewten Unternehmen nutzten dazu entweder eigene Projekte oder kooperierten mit einer Klimaschutzorganisation. Die Faktoren, die die jeweilige Wahl bestimmten, schienen sowohl die vorhandenen Ressourcen innerhalb der Firmen in Bezug auf Personal und Fähigkeiten als auch die Unternehmensphilosophie zu sein. Bei den eigenen Projekten wurden Aufforstungs- oder Waldschutzaktivitäten deutlich bevorzugt. Als ausschlaggebende Faktoren erwiesen sich bei diesen Projekten, dass diese den Kunden anschaulich nahe gebracht und von den Reisegruppen besucht werden können. Einige der Reiseveranstalter nannten unabhängig von der Art des Kompensationsprojektes positive Auswirkungen ihrer Klimaschutzaktivitäten. Sie beobachteten beispielsweise eine höhere Kundenzufriedenheit oder nahmen an, dass ihre Klimaschutzaktivitäten die Buchungszahlen steigen ließen. Die Studie ergab, dass eine nachhaltige Gesamtausrichtung des Unternehmens, gezieltes Klimaschutzmanagement und -marketing wichtiger sind für die Steigerung der Zahlungsbereitschaft als die Größe des Unternehmens oder die Art des Kompensationsprojektes.

In einer Fallstudie, in der Reiseveranstalter aus Namibia interviewt wurden, zeigte sich, dass die die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels und potentiellen Gefahren für den Tourismus in Namibia nur partiell und nicht allen Unternehmen bewusst sind. Obwohl die Reiseveranstalter annehmen, dass der Klimawandel in Zukunft auch im Tourismussektor eine größere Rolle spielen wird, haben Klimaschutzmaßnahmen bisher noch keine hohe Priorität für sie. Trotzdem scheinen die Unternehmen sehr interessiert an Kompensationsprojekten zu sein, sofern diese vor Ort stattfinden und neben der Einsparung von Treibhausgasen auch zur Armutsbekämpfung beitragen.


I would like to acknowledge everyone who supported me throughout the research and composing of my master’s thesis. First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Strasdas for introducing me to the research topic, connecting me with valuable contacts and supporting me throughout the time of researching and writing. Many thanks also to my second supervisor, Patric Arn, for consenting to supervise my thesis and of course, for providing precious support especially during my research period in Windhoek, Namibia. My gratitude also goes to Julian Fennessy and the whole team of NNF who kindly welcomed me, provided information and offered me a place to work from. Furthermore, I acknowledge all tour operators for the enlightening conversations and, of course, for taking the time and allowing me to interview them during the busy tourism season. I also would like to thank all those helpful people in Namibia who assisted me in selecting interview partners and provided contact information. Last but not least, I would like to express a big thank- you to the proofreaders of my thesis, as well as to all my friends and fellow students who did not stop encouraging me during the process of writing.

The case study and empirical research on site in Namibia was only made possible thanks to a PROMOS - scholarship, supplied by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Wiebke Freund

List of Figures

Figure 1 - Number of natural disasters registered in EMDAT

Figure 2 - Carbon Offsets in the Compliance and in the Voluntary Market

Figure 3 - The share of global greenhouse gas emissions by major sector

Figure 4 - Distribution of CO2 emissions in pro cent from various tourism sub-sectors

Figure 5 - Scenarios of carbon dioxide mitigation potential in relation to global tourism

Figure 6 - The three different levels of the CACP

Figure 7 - Motivations for air travellers’ willingness to pay for a carbon travel tax

Figure 8 - The Republic of Namibia and its bordering states

Figure 9 - Total Number of Tourist Arrivals 2002 to

Figure 10 - Tourist arrivals (2008) for the purpose of holiday in percent by nationality

Figure 11 - The visitors’ average rating of each of the attraction factors

Figure 12 - Climate change's perceived impacts on tourism

Figure 13 - Tour operators' interest, knowledge and involvement in carbon-offsetting

Figure 14 - Tour operators' opinion on a suitable project organizer

List of Tables

Table 1 - Working steps of the research process

Table 2 - Summary table of selected standards

Table 3 - Types of Voluntary Carbon Offset Projects

Table 4 - Criteria of the Pre-Selection:

Table 5 - Overview of Tour Operators' Offsetting Projects

Table 6 - Summary of Pros and Cons of Own Offsetting Project

Table 7 - List of interview partners and companies

Table 8 - Summary overview of responses to the key questions

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

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1. Introduction

1.1 Background

Climate change is now commonly acknowledged to present the major challenge of this century1. According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), the last 50 year’s global warming is “very likely” to be an effect of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from human activities (IPCC, 2007). By 2030, the emissions of the six key GHG2 are expected to have increased by 25 to 90% compared to 2000, if no actions are being taken (UN, 2011). To reduce the emissions and eventually stabilize the level of GHG in the atmosphere, policies need to be put in place and mitigation measures need to be adopted (IPPC, 2007; UN, 2011).

The tourism industry’s contribution to climate change is estimated to amount to 5% of to the global GHG emissions (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008). The transportation and especially the aviation sector account for the largest part of the emissions (e.g. Scott et al., 2010; Becken, 2008). As this segment is expected to continue to rapidly grow, also the share of tourism’s emissions will likely enlarge (UNWTO, 2009). In regard to climate change, the tourism industry does not only contribute to it, but is also directly and indirectly affected by the consequences of a changing climate (e.g. UNWTO, 2009; Strasdas, 2010; Gössling, 2011; Davidson, 2009; Becken 2004; respect, 2009; Yang, 2010). This is due to the fact that most types of tourism are very sensitive to changing climate conditions, extreme weather events (Gössling et al., 2010; Becken & Hay, 2007) and are dependent on natural resources and an intact nature, namely landscape, biodiversity and wildlife or simply in relation to clean water supply (UNWTO, 2009).

Even if existent, as governmental policies and regulations aiming to reduce GHG reduction are often implemented rather slowly, tourism companies may want to step ahead and be proactive in that field (cf. Boon et al., 2008). Despite a number of advantages of pro-active initiatives, mitigation measures in tourism are still only adopted by a small (but growing) percentage of companies (Abegg, 2011, Kollmuss et al., 2008; Chiesa & Gautam, 2009). Apart from environmental motivation, economical reasons suggest that the tourism industry should reduce emissions that cause climate change, for instance reducing costs by saving energy, in becoming more competitive by enhancing a company’s reputation or by meeting or exceeding the customers’ sustainable expectations (Scott & Becken, 2010; Gössling, 2011). Recent studies confirm that an increasing number of travellers are aware of tourism’s contribution to global warming and expect companies to take responsibility and engage in climate protection (Wehrli et al., 2011; UNWTO, 2009; Davidson, 2009; Zotz, 2010; Gössling, 2011). This attitude also slowly alters the tourists’ booking decisions (ABTA, 2011; Poser, 2011) and thus plays an increasing role in the development of new “greener” products and marketing activities. It can be assumed that climate protection will become a distinctive mark of a tourism product or company in the competitive tourism market (e.g. Strasdas, 2010; Gössling, 2011, Davidson, 2009; UNEP, 2011). The climate protection projects of tour operators that are already active in this field will be presented in chapter 4 of this thesis and the motivations and environmental and marketing effects of the projects discussed.

To meet customer expectations in terms of mitigating climate change and reducing GHG emissions, there are possibilities for accommodation providers to employ as primary steps e.g. to use renewable energies or increase the facilities’ energy efficiency. Tour operators, in contrast, have these options limited only to their office buildings. Moreover, tour operators are dealing most closely with the travellers during the booking process and thus have to cope with their clients’ preferences on environmental performance and their spending pattern, which does not necessarily correspond to their expectations (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008; Zotz, 2010; Wehrli et al., 2011). For GHG emissions that can neither be avoided nor reduced, voluntary carbon offsetting can be found as one option for tour operators to mitigate their impacts on climate change (e.g. Gössling et al., 2007; Strasdas, 2007; Boon et al., 2008).

In recent years, carbon offsetting and tourism has been thoroughly discussed in literature3. Nevertheless, a lack of literature was found in relation to the motivation of tour operators and the effects of different offsetting projects on e.g. customer satisfaction and sales (cf. Zotz, 2010). This topic has also not been thoroughly studied with regard to awareness and preferences of tourism stakeholders in developing countries (cf. Scott & Becken, 2010). The thesis at hand aims to provide a contribution to filling this gap. After a brief analysis of the tourism industry’s interrelations with climate change, this thesis offers a comparative overview of tour operators’ opportunities to mitigate climate change, including climate protection examples with an emphasis on different carbon offsetting projects. Besides shedding light on exemplary climate protection initiatives that are already being implemented, a case study within this thesis will elucidate the tour operators’ current relation to climate change in a Namibia.

Developing countries like Namibia are most vulnerable to climate change as these countries will be impacted dramatically by the consequences of a changing climate and have little financial and technological resources for mitigation and adaptation measures (cf. IPCC, 2007; Jones et al, 2009; Kadel et al., 2009; UNWTO, 2009). Nevertheless, Namibia’s tourism industry being one of the country’s most important economies (e.g. MET, 2008; Jones et al., 2009) is not only affected by climate change, but is also causing GHG emissions itself - thus exacerbating the issue. This is primarily because Namibia is a long-haul destination for its major source markets and additionally, long distances within the country are generally travelled by either car or air-craft (Strasdas, 2011). Growing environmental awareness and rising flight prices as indirect impacts of climate change could result in the future into fewer long-haul flights, thus reducing emissions and therefore minimizing the impact of harmful effects (Brouwer et al., 2008). It needs to be taken into consideration, however, that cutting back on emissions in aviation is therefore likely to go hand in hand with fewer tourist arrivals (UNWTO, 2009). In developing countries like Namibia that are depending on tourism to bring foreign income and driving its economic growth (Jones et al., 2009; UNWTO, 2009; MET, 2010), a decrease in tourism could have major impacts on its gross domestic product and lead to an overall increase of poverty (cf. Conrady & Bakan, 2008, UNWTO, 2009). Carbon offsetting, as a tool to mitigate climate change in tourism, addresses this critical issue and aims to display a way to compensate the negative sides of flying with funding projects that help to reduce emissions and also generate positive, sustainable social benefits. So far, climate change and mitigation strategies have not been in the focus among Namibia’s tourism stakeholders (Strasdas, 2011). The case study presented in chapter five will concentrate on this topic with an analysis of climate change awareness and attitudes of tour operators in Namibia. Furthermore, general interest and possible preferences in climate mitigation measures of Namibian companies are being studied.

1.2 Objectives and Research Purpose

The main objective of this master’s thesis is to investigate tour operators’ motivation, attitudes and preferences regarding climate protection measures. This paper also provides a brief overview of existing literature on tourism and mitigation strategies. To address the main research topic, the paper is divided into two main parts:

1. Example based discussion of mitigation practices from international tour operators
2. A survey on tour operators in Namibia - as an example for developing countries that highly depend on nature-based tourism and long-haul travel.

The purpose of the first section is to provide a comparative overview of present climate protection opportunities and carbon offsetting projects already implemented by a range of tour operators. This paper will also illustrate the effects of different types of offsetting projects and implementation practices on the company and its customers are being discussed.

In the second part, the focus is on the Namibian tourism industry with specific questions: What is the perception of climate change among tour operators in Namibia? Are tour operators aware of the vulnerability of Namibia’s tourism in regard of climate change4 ? Does any interest exist in mitigating climate change and which preferences and needs do tour operators have in this respect? The final question to be answered is what type of carbon compensation projects should be developed to meet climate protection goals as well as attract tourism stakeholders to participate and motivate tourists to offset their carbon emissions and therefore help sponsoring the project.

A detailed set of research questions can be found in chapter 2.6, at the end of the literature review. Hypotheses and research questions for the case study are stated at the beginning of the case study, as they have been defined by taking the results of the first study, chapter 4, into consideration.

1.3 Methodology Outline

After defining the study’s objectives, a methodology framework for the data generation, analysis and case studies was defined, as detailed later in chapter 3. For the process of this qualitative study, eight working steps have been drawn up. Table 1 illustrates the chronology of the working steps and their objectives:5

Table 1 - Working steps of the research process

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To begin with, a secondary literature review was undertaken primarily for the background chapter on climate change and tourism as well as for the country introduction of Namibia within the case study. Academics as well as popular publications dealing with the subjects have been reviewed.

For a deeper analysis with primary sources and own data, a qualitative research approach was chosen with expert interviews being the central source of primary data. In consideration of the relative small number of tour operators being already active in climate protection, compared to the total amount of tour operators worldwide, the qualitative approach seemed more applicable to investigate the research questions. For both, the comparative overview of tour operators’ climate engagement as well as the case study, the qualitative approach has the advantage to gain deeper insight and present the results in a descriptive respectively explorative manner with due regard to the specific contexts of the different parts of this study (cf. Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2011; Finn et al., 2000).

The method of including a case study6 into the thesis was chosen to comprehensively investigate the topic extensively for one specific destination. The outcomes of the case study should be transferable to a certain extent to similar countries or destinations. Primary data was gathered through in-depth face-to-face interviews with inbound tour operators in Namibia.

Over the course of the research, the original methodology needed to be partially adapted, since it emerged that several of the international tour operators preferred completing a questionnaire instead of being available for a phone interview. That was eventually the case of 4 out of 10 “interviews”. For the case study, one company was surveyed with a questionnaire, since no interview could be scheduled, while the remaining 15 companies were interviewed face-to-face

1.4 Report Structure

After a general foreword, this paper starts in chapter two with a brief introduction of climate change and anthropogenic warming and focuses then on the interrelations between tourism and climate change and mitigation options. At the end of this chapter, the defined research questions are being specified, before the empirical methodology is described in chapter three. Thereafter, in chapter four, climate protection activities of several tour operators and its effects are being presented and discussed. The following section of the thesis deals with the case study, which firstly presents the hypotheses that are developed by taking the previous chapter’s results into consideration. The chapter then briefly introduces Namibia and its tourism situation, before the empirical research is being unveiled and discussed. Finally in chapter 6, the results of both parts of this study are being discussed and conclusions are drawn.

The summarized transcriptions of the interviews conducted with tour operators as well as the completed questionnaires can be found in the appendix.

2. Tourism and Climate Change

This chapter provides a brief introduction to the basics of climate change, prior to shedding light on the interrelations of climate change and tourism. An overview of mitigation measures will be given with the focus on voluntary carbon offsetting. The literature review will continue with a section about travellers’ awareness on climate change, and will conclude with a defined set of research questions.

2.1 Climate Change Background

2.1.1 State of Knowledge

Climate is generally defined as the “long term average weather condition of a large area of the earth’s surface” measured over a rather long period of time, compared to weather which is the “state of the atmosphere at a given time” (Mfune et al., 2009:14). Notwithstanding individual weather events, natural processes can also cause climate variability within a climate system (IPCC, 2007). It is nowadays commonly agreed by international scientists, however, that anthropogenic activities that release greenhouse gases (GHG)7 contribute and accelerate climate variability respectively the change of climate (e.g. IPCC, 2007; Ehmer & Heymann, 2008; Scott, 2011; Gössling, 2011). The term “climate change” describes a “change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UNFCCC, 1992:3). Burning fossil fuels is commonly regarded as the main contributor to climate change (SOURCE). Since pre-industrial times, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the gas contributing most to the greenhouse effect, has continuously risen with an enlargement of 70% between the years of 1970 and 2004 (IPCC, 2007; UNFCCC, 2009).

Although globally a warming trend in the climate has been observed for decades there is still uncertainty to the prediction of future climate scenarios. This is because of the high complexity of variables and interaction in the climate system and it seems difficult to predict the precise effects of a changing climate in specific areas, despite ongoing improvements in climate change sciences (e.g. IPCC, 2007; Mfune et al., 2009; MET, 2010). In order to prevent the planet from suffering dangerous and irreversible damage caused by crossing the “climate change tipping points” which scientists expect by a global temperature increase of over 2.0 to 2.4°C8 (IPCC, 2007), researchers have warned policy makers that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere must not increase beyond levels expected by 2015 (Kollmuss et al., 2008). IPCC scientists stress that even stabilizing GHG levels in the atmosphere of 445 to 490 ppm, a major reduction of anthropogenic GHG emissions of 50-85% by 20509 is urgently required (Bullock et al., 2009, UN, 2011) and warn that climate impacts might exceed yet the most pessimistic scenarios expected, including sea-level rise, severe flooding, more weather extremes and changes in weather pattern leading to water scarcity and risk for hunger concerning potentially billions of people (e.g. UNEP, 2004; Brouwer et al., 2008; Bullocks et al., 2009; WWF, 2009). According to the last available assessment report by the IPCC of 2007, current mitigation policies and climate protection practices are with “much evidence” not sufficient and do not alter the continuous grow of global GHG emissions over the next decades (IPCC, 2007; Schott et al., 2010). It is commonly acknowledged that the level of global temperature increase in the future strongly depends on the path chosen to deal with emissions and the adoption of much needed measures to limit GHG emissions in the upcoming decades (e.g. Scott et al., 2010). Some of the impacts of climate change can already be witnessed, as a change in intensity and frequency was observed, regarding extreme weather events over the last decades (IPCC, 2007). It is deemed very likely that the frequency of precipitation has changed and heat waves have become more numerous (IPCC, 2007). The following graph (see figure 1) from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, shows that the occurrence of all natural catastrophes increased exponentially in the last 40 years. Hydro-meteorological, i.e. climate-related disasters, such as floods, draughts and hurricanes, however, present a far larger increase in numbers than other natural disaster (UNISDR, 2006).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 - Number of natural disasters registered in EMDAT 10- 1900 to 2005 (Source: UNISDR, 2006)

It has also been observed that not only the frequency, but also the structure of global precipitation and draughts has changed. While northern regions become more humid, the subtropical areas are recognized to become even dryer (e.g. Conrady & Bakan, 2008). Additionally, due to higher global temperatures, regular draughts are expected to be of longer duration and become more intense (Mfune et al., 2009).

2.1.2 Market Mechanism of Carbon Trading

More than 130 countries have until today approved climate protection policies that seek to limit temperature increase to maximal 2°C in comparison to pre-industrial levels. With the help of these policies, risks of severe impacts should at least be decreased as it seems unlikely to evade all expected impacts (Schott et al., 2010). The first international agreement to tackle climate change, the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 by 37 industrialized countries who agreed with binding targets to cut GHG emissions (Bullocks et al., 2009; UNFCCC, 1998). Within the Kyoto Protocol that is linked to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the first steps for an emission trading system between countries were established, combined with the clean development fund that aims to support developing countries to adopt a sustainable and low- emissions developing path (IPCC, 2007; MET, 2010). The ultimate objectives of the UNFCCC is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, while this level should be reached within a time-frame that is “sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (Source: UNFCCC, 1992:4).

Under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, the emission reduction targets are primarily to be met by the developed countries that are predominately responsible for the high concentration of the GHG currently in the atmosphere (UNFCCC, 1998).

In addition to national measures to achieve the reduction targets, the participating countries also have the chance to trade emissions allowances with other countries, using the three different market-based mechanism that are included in the Kyoto Protocol:

- Emission trading (carbon market)
- Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
- Joint Implementation (JI)

The established cap-and-trade system imposes limits to the national greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. Corresponding to the assigned emission targets, each country is eligible to a certain number of allowances (e.g. Kollmuss et al., 2008). At the “carbon market”, countries are allowed to trade these GHG emission rights, such as the EU member states within the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). In addition, the CDM helps developed countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, so called Annex I11 countries, in complying with their reduction targets by permitting them to finance emission reduction projects in developing countries (e.g. UNFCCC, 1998; UNEP, 2004; MET, 2010). The CDM’s intension is to promote sustainable development and provide benefits such as technology transfers for the hosting countries (Bullock et al., as developing nations have typically e.g. lower energy efficiencies or less advanced technologies (UNEP, 2004). Each CDM project generates Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) that can be sold to Annex I parties. Compared to the CDM, the difference of the Joint Implementation (JI) is that another Annex I country hosts the project and not a developing nation (IPCC, 2007).

The idea behind all three mechanisms implies that it is not relevant for the global climate where on the planet GHG emissions are reduced or emitted. The so called “flexible mechanisms” therefore enable countries to lower their costs to reduce emissions by taking the opportunity to remove emissions in other countries where the same amount of emissions can be avoided more cost- efficiently (e.g. Kollmuss et al., 2008; Bulluck et al., 2009; UNFCCC, 2011).

Even though the mechanism mentioned here are expected to play an important part in future climate protection measures (WWF, 2009), critics of the Kyoto Protocol and its following climate conventions argue that the current emission reductions are merely “voluntary pledges by individual countries”. Schott et al. (2010) further suggest that the emission targets should become legally binding agreements under an UN framework, in order to be sufficient to reach the cutbacks in emission that are needed to limit global warming to 2°C UN (Schott et al., 2010).

Outside of the compliance market where CERs are traded, a voluntary market for emission reductions, so called carbon offsets, exists (see fig. 2). On the voluntary market, either CERs e.g. from CDM projects, or Verified or Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs) can be purchased not only by governments, but also by businesses, NGOs and individuals that are willing to offset their emissions (e.g. Kollmuss et al., 2008).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2 - Carbon Offsets in the Compliance and in the Voluntary Market. (Source: Kollmuss et al., 2008:6)

As illustrated in figure 2, the size of the voluntary market is much smaller than the trading volume of the compliance market, as the demand of carbon offsets relies entirely on voluntary purchases (Kollmuss et al., 2008). The role that the voluntary market plays in the tourism industry will be outlined in chapter 2.4.

2.2 Interrelations of Climate Change and Tourism

Over the last decade, the impact of tourism on climate change, as well as the impacts of climate change on tourism have been widely researched and discussed in literature, along with potential mitigation strategies such as carbon offsetting (cf. e.g. Becken & Hay, 2007; Eijgelaar, 2007; Conrady & Bakan, 2008; Schott et al., 2010, Scott et al., 2010; Gössling, 2011; Strasdas, 2011). For the sake of breadth, this thesis will offer a very brief literature review on this topic. Obviously, there are many ways in which tourism contributes directly or indirectly to climate change, just as there are many ways in which a changing climate forces tourism to adapt. Some of these interrelation are described in detail in the main chapters four and , particularly dealing with two topics less frequently discussed in literature: first, the tour operators’ current mitigation measures and second Namibia’s tour operators’ awareness of climate change.

Given that the climate and the environment are two key resources of tourism12, this sector is considered highly sensitive to the impacts of a changing climate, (UNWTO, 2007a; Yang, 2010), similar to agriculture. Tourism stakeholders also recognize the “two-way interaction” between climate change and tourism (Zotz, 2010). According to McKercher et al. (2010) there is little doubt nowadays that tourism is not only the victim of climate change but also a culprit. In fact, tourism has been identified as a major source of GHG emissions, due to its energy-intensive activities (e.g. IPCC, 2007; Gössling, 2011). Current research estimates that the tourism sector’s contribution to the global anthropogenic climate impact amounts to about 5% (UNWTO, 2007a; UNWT, 2009; UNEP, 2011), 4% to 9% (Zotz, 2010) respectively even 5% to 12% (Scott et al., 2010). Tourism has even been found to be one of the fastest increasing sources of GHG emissions (Dubois & Ceron, 2008; Mair, 2011). There is consensus that by far the largest part of GHG emissions caused by tourism is generated by air travel (e.g. Gössling et al., 2007; UNWTO & UNEP 2008; Scott et al., 2010) as specified later on in this chapter.

In 2007 the UNWTO adopted the Davos Declaration13 which clearly acknowledged the link between tourism and climate change and tourism’s significant contribution to global warming (UNWTO, 2007a). Meanwhile it has become a general consensus within the industry that a long term strategy is needed for the tourism sector in order to contribute to global reduction efforts of GHG emissions (UNWTO, 2007a; Scott et al., 2010). Nevertheless, Scott (2011) points out that the tourism sector is least prepared for the challenges and chances of climate change compared to other industries and only recently started to show visible interest in climate change and accumulate the knowledge and the capacity to address this issue (cf. Conrady & Balkan, 2008). It is expected that climate change is likely to “become an increasingly pivotal issue affecting tourism development and management” (Yang, 2010:212).

To calculate both tourism’s climate-risks and emission contribution in the future, development trends in tourism need to be taken into consideration. Domestic and international tourism are growing rapidly (e.g. Scott et al., 2010; ITB, 2010). International tourist arrivals have more than tripled in the last three decades from 300 million in 1980 to 922 million in 2008 (UNWTO, 2009). The global economic crisis in 2009 temporarily dented this growth trend, but as early as 2010, the trend in world travel has turned upwards again and is expected to be “back on the growth path” (ITB, 2010). The UNWTO even predicts growth rates that could amount to 1.6 billion international arrivals by 2020 (cited from Gössling et al., 2009).

The expected growth of tourism worldwide implicates simultaneously rising GHG emissions. Even if taking future energy efficiency gains into consideration, an emission escalation of about 130% to 250% by 2035 is estimated for business-as-usual scenarios in global tourism (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008; UNWTO, 2009). As Scott et al. (2010) conclude, tourism emissions would exceed the “budget for the entire global economy” by 2050 to 2060 (Scott et al., 2010:397). To slow down this trend, effective mitigation measures have soon to be adopted by all tourism stakeholders as a minimum if growth should continue. These trends highlight the urgent need of policies that “encourages truly sustainable tourism that reflects a “quadruple bottom line” of environmental, social, economic and climate responsiveness” (UNWTO, 2007a:2).

2.2.1 Tourism’s Contribution to Climate Change

Tourism is a very diverse industry and comprises many different elements such as transportation, accommodation and activities. Concerning the global contribution to GHG emissions, tourism can thus be integrated into several economic sectors whose shares are illustrated in figure 3. Above all, tourism is linked to the transport, building and waste segments which together make up 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (UNFCCC, 2009).

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Figure 3 - The share of global greenhouse gas emissions by major sector. (Source: UNFCCC, 2009)

The transport and the building sector are regarded to have large potentials in reducing GHG emissions (Schott et al., 2010). Despite the fact that in the last years these sectors have been reducing their share of global emissions, the emissions from the tourism industry are still rapidly rising (e.g. Eijgelaar, 2009). However, researchers point out that there is a lack of exact figures, quality data and accessibility of data concerning tourism’s GHG emissions (Zotz, 2010; Scott & Becken, 2010).

Of the estimated 5% of global GHG emissions that originate from the tourism industry (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008; UNEP, 2011), transportation accounts for 75% and is therefore the major contributor to emissions related to tourism (e.g. respect, 2009), followed by the accommodation sector with 21% (see figure 4).

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Figure 4 - Distribution of CO2 emissions in pro cent from various tourism sub-sectors. Source: UNWTO & UNEP 2008:34

When comparing ground and air transport, there is overwhelming agreement that aviation presents the more problematic contributor to climate change (e.g. Gössling et al., 2009; Strasdas, 2007). An example from Europe shows that with only 11% of all tourists traveling by airplane in Europe, the contribution of air travel to tourism transportation’s emission is still 46% (UNWTO, 2008). This is explained by the effects of radiative forcing14 that apply to emissions being released in high altitudes and lead to significant GHG effects, in addition to the impacts of CO2 emissions (Strasdas, 2007; Bows et al., 2009). It should be added that the tourism industry depends heavily on aviation and the share of international trips using air transportation is likely to rise from 45% in 2005 to estimated 55% in 2035 (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008). Within the EU, air traffic is the fastest growing source of GHG emissions (Bows et al., 2009) and it has become apparent that technological efficiency improvements in aviation are not sufficient to balance the forecasted growth in air traffic (Strasdas, 2007; Eijgelaar, 2009; Gössling et al., 2010).

2.2.2 Climate Change’s Impacts on Tourism

As already outlined, tourism is highly sensitive to changes in climate since climate is a resource for the industry and a crucial element of tourism products (Becken & Hay, 2008). Obviously, the impacts of climate change on tourism cannot be generalized for all regions and segments of tourism as they differ largely. But it became apparent that all key elements of the tourism products can be affected by climate change: Amenities, Attraction and Access (Conrady & Bakan, 2008). Many studies have identified that climate change influences the competitiveness of tourism destinations and produces “winners and losers” (UNWTO, 2009; Scott, 2011). While some tourism attractions and destinations are already facing negative effects and losing their attractiveness, other destinations might even benefit from the changing climate. In cooler destinations for instance, the moderate warming might impact the tourism sector in a positive way, while winter sport regions (less snow), small islands (sea level rise) or some summer destinations (too hot) are threatened to lose attractiveness (Conrady & Bakan, 2008; Schott et al., 2010). As climate is assessed as a central determinant of tourist decision making (UNWTO, 2009), it can therefore be expected that the tourist flows are shifting north in the northern hemisphere respectively south in the southern hemisphere as summers in those regions might become warmer and sunnier (e.g. respect, 2009; McKercher et al., 2010; Schott et al., 2010). At the same time, popular summer destinations might become less attractive for tourists due to frequent extreme heat waves, algae blooms, jellyfish invasions or coral bleaching (Becken & Hay, 2007; Ehmer & Heymann, 2008; Gössling et al., 2009). In general, evidences from all parts of the world show that “many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases” (IPCC, 2007:31) with “negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, e.g. water and food supply” (IPCC, 2007:48). These effects are more than likely to impact the tourism, as tourism relies on an intact nature (respect, 2009). More frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods or severe draughts are further direct impacts of climate change that already started to negatively effect attractions and tourism facilities (UNWTO & UNEP, 200).

Furthermore, societal indirect impacts on tourism concern fossil fuel prices that have skyrocked in recent years (Strasdas, 2010) and prices may keep rising in the next decades (Ehmer & Heymann, 2008). Additional pressure for rising prices that is related to climate change may come from carbon taxes that are being introduced by individual countries or as an effect of emission trading mechanisms. These impacts of adapting to climate change in form of higher costs could make travelling more expensive and thus limit access to tourism (Conrady & Bakan, 2008). In the long run, in some nations climate change could threaten economic development, lead to mass migration and risk political stability (UNWTO, 2009; respect, 2009). These indirect impacts particularly affect countries with a small domestic tourism market that are dependent on long-haul source markets. A decrease in long-haul travel, caused by rising costs of flights or climate policies may and partly already does significantly impact the progress of tourism in developing countries (Strasdas, 2007; Gössling et al., 2009). Fewer long-haul flights increase the threat on developing countries of experiencing severe negative impacts on the tourism sector, mainly if they rely to a great extent on foreign income through tourism and invest high hopes in tourism as a developing aid (UNWTO, 2009; Perch-Nielsen, 2010). As a result, climate change implies even further difficult burden on the countries’ way to reduce poverty (Ehmer & Heymann, 2008; Schott et al., 2010).

Despite the fact that impacts of climate change vary geographically, all economic sectors, but also nations as a whole “will have to contend with the challenges of climate change through mitigation and adaptation” (Scott et al., 2010:394).

2.3 Climate Adaptation Measures in Tourism

Climate adaptation is a very broad field and will play an increasing role for tourism in the future depending on the local situation. Regardless of the necessity of developing and adopting measures for many tourism destinations and actors to cope with a changing climate, it is beyond the scope of this thesis to discuss adaptation in detail and the concept will only be briefly introduced.

The term adaptation describes “initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects” (Baede, 2007:76). As complete avoidance of climate impacts on tourism is has been recognized as being impossible (UN, 2011), practices and policies to prepare for the climate change effects need to be put in place (UNWTO, 2009; Scott et al., 2010). The importance of adaptation strategies is enforced by the complex relationship between tourism and climate change that causes the change and is effected of it at the same time (Conrady & Bakan, 2008). Researchers stress that all tourism destinations and businesses “will need to adapt to climate change in order to minimize associated risks or capitalize upon new opportunities, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner” (Gössling et al., 2009:110). A survey conducted in Australia showed that tourism stakeholders are not yet prepared to invest in adaptation as a consequence of the apparent uncertainties in the scale of environmental impacts caused by climate change (Turton et al., 2010). The majority of measures that had been recognized by the stakeholders as adaptation could actually be classified as adaptation to climate policies, such as marketing the destination as “climate friendly” or reducing GHG emissions (Turton et al., 2010). In this context, Baede (2007) points out that there are various types of adaptation such as reactive, anticipatory, public and private and autonomous.

Even though research on climate change adaptation in tourism is still less developed compared to other industries, Scott & Becken (2010) put forward that the tourism sector has a fairly high adaptive capacity to cope with climate change, concluding from the reaction and recovering of the tourism sector to past shocks like terrorism attacks, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. However, the greatest capacity to react in regard of climate change is seen to lie with the travellers themselves, as they can mostly choose travel destinations that are not affected by climate change (Conrady & Bakan, 2008; Gössling et al., 2009).

2.4 Climate Mitigation Measures in Tourism

In the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change mitigation is defined as “a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases” (UN, 2011:1). “Sinks” are hereby forests, soils or vegetation that are able to reabsorb carbon dioxide (UNFCCC, 2009). The climate impacts on tourism and its nature resources cannot be denied anymore by the tourism industry. As a result, the need of mitigation measures is now in general acknowledged among tourism stakeholders (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008; Eijgelaar, 2009). Lund-Durlacher (2007) stresses the importance of these climate protection measures to be on the one hand effective in the short- term and on the other sustainable in the long-term to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Conrady & Bakan (2008) remark in addition that the long life-span of CO2 in the atmosphere means that a cutback in emissions would not be evident in the short term. This fact complicates the “mission” of convincing the three major stakeholders in tourism, the industry, the governmental and global policy bodies as well as the tourists, to actively participate in reducing tourism’s GHG emissions (McKercher et al., 2010). Further reasons for implementing mitigation measures focus on economic factors and concern the rising prices of energy: tourism businesses can save money by adopting energy reduction measures, which automatically would lead to lower GHG emissions. Despite the investment costs, using renewable energy such as from solar panels, can pay off in the long-term and is therefore also economically interesting for e.g. accommodation businesses. Moreover, as will be discussed later on in this chapter (in 2.6.), ever more tourists expect that companies get involved in climate protection and their willingness to pay a financial contribution is slowly increasing (Gössling et al., 2010).

The most essential mitigation method is the reduction of energy use (Zotz, 2010), which can be obtained through a range of mechanism comprising technological, economic, behavioural and managerial instruments (UNWTO, 2007a). In literature15, commonly a combination of different strategies is suggested to reduce GHG emissions:

- Technological solutions
- Improved efficiency of aerial traffic management
- Switch to more energy-efficient means of transportation
- Change of travel patterns
- Use of regulatory instruments for aviation
- Voluntary compensation of emissions

(Strasdas, 2007:5)

The technological solutions encompass on the one hand improving energy efficiency achieved through technical innovations. On the other hand they comprise the development of renewable energies and substitution of fossil energy with renewable energy sources. Scientists point out that in the aviation sector, the potential of technical emission reduction is limited (IPPC, 2007; Scott et al., 2010) and it becomes more and more difficult to reach further fuel efficiency improvements (Bows et al., 2009). Scott & Becken (2010) argue that insufficient research is currently available in the context of tourism. Apart from solely technical solutions, energy usage can also be reduced by enhancing logistics and traffic management in aviation, including the avoidance of waiting loops, change of flight altitudes, planes of higher capacity and optimization of flight routes, (e.g. Gössling et al., 2007; Strasdas, 2007). Nevertheless, as air transportation emits by far more GHG than other means of transportation, switching to more fuel-efficient options needs to be taken into consideration wherever possible. In addition advancing technology, reduction in GHG emissions could be achieved by implementing regulatory instruments such as emission fees and taxes on aviation and a change in management and behaviours. Modal shifts in travel pattern are often suggested for tourists to reduce their travel emissions, including travelling less often but with longer stays in the destination, fewer long-haul trips and switching from air to terrestrial transportation (e.g. McKercher et al., 2010; Strasdas, 2010). Schott et al. (2010), however, point out that positive impacts of behaviour changes are still trivial in regard to emissions development in the long-term (Scott & Becken, 2010). As a total abandonment of (touristic) flights is not realistic and feasible and would implicate severe economic consequences for many destinations (Lund-Durlacher et al., 2007), Buckley (2010) declares that only the increase of air travel costs by means of e.g. carbon taxes would actually be an efficient option to reduce aviation related GHG emissions.

Studies have shown that neither technological solutions nor changed travel pattern alone would have the potential to accomplish absolute emission reductions against the baseline of 2005 (UNWTO & UNEP, 2008). Figure 5 illustrates three different scenarios of global tourism’s CO2 mitigation potential, compared to the expected emissions in a business-as-usual scenario.

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Figure 5 - Scenarios of carbon dioxide mitigation potential in relation to global tourism in 2035

(Source: UNWTO & UNEP, 2008:172)

By analysing figure 5 it becomes obvious that only a combination of both mitigation measures could potentially reduce tourism’s emissions by 16% in 2035 in relation to 2005. This demonstrates also the importance of considering modified travel patterns in future planning of all tourism stakeholders aiming to mitigate emissions or adapt to climate change (Buckley, 2010).

McKercher et al. (2010) highlights that international policy bodies and tourism industry have started to get involved in climate protection, although this has often solely been a due to compulsory compliance strategies or reaction to economic obligation of more energy- efficient aircrafts. Eijgelaar (2007), however, argues that even if the effective implementation of e.g. fuel taxes and emission trading schemes that include the aviation sector, may lead to specific GHG reduction, more people would start flying in the meantime and compensating this reduction. According to Schott et al. (2010) and Scott & Becken (2010) here is still a lack of research about the most effective ways of mitigation in tourism, emphasising the question what type of voluntary measures or governmental regulations would possibly lead to the tourism industry’s best contribution to reducing GHG emissions.

2.4.1 Voluntary Carbon Offsetting in Tourism

In the last years, voluntary carbon offsetting has become increasingly popular within the tourism sector. Progressively more tourism stakeholders are using offsetting as a mean to mitigate impacts of traveling and engage in climate protection (e.g. Boon et al., 2008; Dubois & Ceron, 2008; Gössling 2009; Kollmuss et al., 2008; Zotz, 2010; Mair, 2011). Carbon offsetting, or synonymously carbon compensation, belongs to the tools of “carbon management” that can be described as “a management system that aims to reduce a company’s or organisation’s GHG emissions as much as possible, ideally to zero” (Strasdas, 2010:60). Carbon offsetting can basically be described as the purchase of carbon credits (“offsets”) by emitters, seeking to “compensate” their already emitted GHG to neutralize the greenhouse effect. Companies or organizations thereby invest in projects that reduce or absorb GHG emissions and generate an equivalent of carbon credits to the amount (in tons) of emissions they reduced (e.g. Gössling et al., 2011). The method of carbon offsetting is possible, due to the even distribution of GHG in the atmosphere; therefore the location of GHG reduction is not important for global climate protection (e.g. Kollmuss et al., 2008). In comparison with the compliance market, Voluntary or Verified Carbon Reduction credits (VER) are sold to organizations or individuals that do not have to comply with the regulatory carbon market. The quality of VER should be equal to Certified Emission Reductions (CER) from the regulatory system with VERs complementing and not duplicating CERs (Sisman, 2010). In the travel industry, carbon offsetting is mostly used to voluntarily “neutralize” flight emissions, both from individual travellers and from tour companies that advertise “carbon neutral” products. The system of carbon offsetting has the advantage over other types of mitigation measures that it is widely available to every person willing to compensate their GHG emissions (Eijgelaar, 2007). Until now, neither individuals nor companies are required by law to reduce their emissions, Kollmuss et al. (2008) conclude that the “availability of offsets in the voluntary market may therefore lead to additional emissions reduction that would not have happened without the availability of offsets” (Kollmuss et al., 2008:3). Nevertheless, Gössling et al., (2007) and Strasdas (2007) argue that voluntary carbon offsetting should preferably be used only for flights that cannot be avoided and can only be regarded as a short-term option to mitigate the impacts on climate change.

Despite its positive aspects, the concept of voluntary carbon offsetting is also criticized in literature and its utility to climate protection brought into question. Mair (2011) for example argues that this type of mitigation sets the responsibility for carbon compensation on the consumer instead of the polluter. Although the promotion of carbon offsetting within the tourism sector may raise public awareness (e.g. Dubois & Ceron, 2008), it is often regarded as a means to lighten up guilt because of air travel emissions to relieve one’s conscience (Conrady & Balkan, 2008). The lack of transparency and uncertainties in terms of measurements of GHG emission reductions and their permanence is also critically scrutinized (Strasdas et al., 2010; Mair, 2011). Standards that aim to tackle this problem within the voluntary market will be pointed out in the next section of this chapter. Many further points of criticism that are valid for the regulatory market can also be brought forward for the voluntary market, for example that offsetting often distracts from the necessity of avoiding GHG emissions in the first place, before they are being emitted (cf. e.g. Bullocks et al., 2009). Comparing the total travel emissions with the sales of voluntary carbon credits, scientists estimate the factual mitigation potential of carbon offsetting as low (Dubois & Ceron, 2008; Eijgelaar, 2009). To actually compensate 10% of all GHG emissions from aviation, Gössling et al. calculated in 2007 that the voluntary carbon market would need to increase by 400%.

2.4.2 Voluntary Carbon Markets, Standards and Certifications

Due to its voluntary nature, the voluntary carbon market has still only a small volume in relation to the compliance market, although it has expanded rapidly in the last years (e.g. Kollmuss et al., 2008; Gössling, 2011). Most of the offsetting organisations that offer voluntary carbon compensation schemes are located in Europe, North America and Australia, the regions where voluntary offsetting is mostly applied. While many of these offsetting organisations are operating as charities, numerous companies offer carbon-offsets on a commercial basis (Strasdas, 2007; Scott & Becken, 2010). In recent years, several studies revealed significant differences between the offsetting organisations regarding their emission calculation, type of compensation projects, price levels of offsets and verification processes (e.g. Gössling et al., 2007; Boon et al., 2008; Strasdas et al., 2010). Sisman (2010) from the Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service (TICOS) confirms these observations and points out that “no single regulatory framework for voluntary schemes” exists. As an example he adds that “some of these schemes vary by as much as three hundred percent in calculating the carbon cost of a flight”16. These variations are firstly a result of the different RFI factors with a range of 1 (no factor) to 3, applied by the offsetting organisations to take any secondary, non-CO2 warming into account. Further differences of emission calculations arise as some organisations make use of standardized carbon figures for specific airplanes, while others use complex calculation models (e.g. Boon et al., 2008; Strasdas et al., 2010; Zotz, 2010). The disparities in price per ton of CO2 can be attributed among others to the different types of offsetting projects and the fact that an exact calculation of carbon emissions being saved by a project is often not possible (Bullock et al., 2009).

Regarding the many different choices of compensation offers on the voluntary carbon market, it is often criticized that detailed and comprehensible information are not displayed by the offset providers. This lack of transparency makes it even more difficult for travelers and companies that are interested in compensating their emissions, to assess the effectiveness, sustainability and trustworthiness of their offsets (e.g. Gössling et al., 2007; Strasdas et al., 2010). Numerous media reports focused in recent years on the low quality of many offsetting projects and further upset potential customers. To address these weaknesses, tackle both problems and improve the quality of the carbon reduction projects, several standards have been developed (Kollmuss et al., 2008).

These standards can be seen as guidelines that voluntary compensation projects should preferably fulfill.

An important role within the standards plays the principle of “additionality” that has to apply to projects generating carbon credits. The principle of additionality describes that the carbon reductions effect should not have happened anyway without the carbon offset project taking place (e.g. Zotz, 2010). Compared to the CDM standards, projects certified by the more demanding Verified Emission Reduction Standard Plus (VER+) or the even stricter Gold Standard (GS) guarantee additionality, the GS standard also guarantees sustainable development benefits for local communities. Further central principles comprise the permanence of GHG reductions and verification to assess the reliability of the standards (Gössling et al., 2007; Eijgelaar, 2009). Compensation agencies that are committed to VER or GS can therefore be considered as more credible than others (Zotz, 2010). The CDM mechanism is part of the regulatory carbon market but can additionally be used for voluntary compensation projects that are meeting the requirements. Table 2 displays the CDM in comparison with the GS and VER+ standards that are commonly acknowledged as high quality standards, the GS is now also widely recognized as a benchmark standard.

Table 2 - Summary table of selected standards (Extract from Kollmuss et al., 2008:X)

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1 See among others Conrady & Balkan, 2008; WWF, 2009; Schott et al., 2010; Scott & Becken, 2010

2 The six greenhouse gases (GHG) are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). (Source: UNFCCC, 2009)

3 see among others: Becken, 2004; Eijgelaar, 2009; Gössling et al., 2007; Mair, 2010; Strasdas, 2010; Zotz, 2010; Boon et al, 2008; Gössling, 2011.

4 The vulnerability of Namibia’s tourism industry has been discussed among others in: MET, 2010; Reid, 2007; Strasdas, 2011; Davidson, 2009

5 Based on Diekmann, 2007.

6 A case study can be described as an “expansive field within the qualitative paradigm. Case study is a research strategy or a process of inquiring, as well as the result of inquiry” (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2011:275).

7 “Greenhouse gases” are defined as “those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation” (UNFCCC, 1992:3).

8 Compared to the pre-industrial level (IPCC, 2007)

9 Of levels of atmospheric GHG in 2000, to compare, the GHG levels in 2005 amounted to 379 ppm (IPCC, 2007; UN, 2011).

10 “EM-DAT is a global database on natural and technological disasters that contains essential core data on the occurrence and effects. EM-DAT is maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the School of Public Health of the Université catholique de Louvain located in Brussels, Belgium.” (Source: http://www.emdat.be)

11 Countries that are listed in Annex I to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, European Union, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America

12 The term “tourism” is defined as “a social, cultural and economic phenomenon related to the movement of people to places outside their usual place of residence, pleasure being the usual motivation. “ (UN and WTO, 2010:1). On the demand-side, tourism “refers to the activities of visitors and their role in the acquisition of goods and services.” From the supply side, tourism can be seen as “the set of productive activities that cater mainly to visitors.” (UNSTATS, 2010:1)

13 The Davos Declaration , titled “Climate Change and Tourism Responding to Global Challenges”, is the outcome of the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, that took place in October 2007 in Davos, Switzerland. The position paper includes recommendations for politicians, researchers, business leaders and consumers (Respect, 2009).

14 Radiative forcing is defined as “the change in the net vertical irradiance (expressed in watts per metre square) at the tropopause due to an internal change or a change in the external forcing of the climate system, such as a change in the concentration of carbon dioxide or the output of the sun. Usually, radiative forcing is computed after allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with all tropospheric properties held fixed at their unperturbed values.” Source: http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/syrgloss.pdf.

15 Cf. e.g. Becken & Hay, 2007; Gössling et al., 2007; Strasdas, 2007; UNWTO, 2007a; Dubois & Ceron, 2008; Scott et al., 2010; Zotz, 2010

16 Cited from: http://www.ticos.co.uk/generic/about.htm (last accessed: 10.09.2011)


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Tourismus nachhaltiger Tourismus Green tourism sustainable tourism carbon offsetting climate change Namibia Klimawandel tour operator Reiseveranstalter




Title: Carbon offsetting as part of tourism operators’ strategy to mitigate climate change