Guardian article: 2015 – “Once in a lifetime” chance for Green Growth and Travelism By Geoffrey Lipman and Felix Dodds

This can be read at the guardian web site or here on this blog below

“Travelism thrives on peace and sustainability and is an essential contributor to it. Tourism which is such an important contributor to the economies of most countries provides them with a strong incentive to maintain internal security, protect the human rights of their people…..and provide them with expanding opportunities.” Maurice Strong Secretary General of the Stockholm (1972) and Rio (1992) UN Conferences

Next week’s UN Heads of State Summit on Sustainable Development Goals is a key element of a coherent global strategy for a better future for humanity.  By the end of this year, we will have seen 3 such Summits starting with Development Finance in Addis in July and ending on Carbon Targets in Paris in December.

Despite its massive societal significance, this is only a staging post in our post industrial development.  For more than half a century, and particularly since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the world community – in hundreds of thousands of discussions, across nations, peoples and industries - has increasingly shaped this progressive shared economic, social and environmental framework. One that seeks to balance benefits & impacts of human change, with safety nets against extreme shocks and climate resilience as the universal existential challenge.

The SDGs reframe the Earth Summit agreements into a new global blueprint for the 21st century a ‘transformational agenda’ for sustainable development to 2030 and beyond. It’s a long journey, with each country, locality and individual coming from a different starting point, with unique capacities and reasons to change. Ultimately we have to get to the same end point by 2050 - the date, where science and politics are converging on liveable global temperature stabilisation.  With new multi-billion dollar funds, legal frameworks and collaborations to support that change.

This paradigm lifestyle shift is expressed in many ways but the idea of Green Growth, where growth is decoupled from impacts, seems to ideally capture the right direction for change. ‘Growth’ to raise people from poverty and provide new jobs for a rapidly expanding global population. “Green” for technology enabled, low carbon renewable energy, with strong social inclusion, smart basic resource use and increased focus on nature conservation. With environmental balance fully integrated into policy, regulation and operational frameworks, and climate / disaster resilience a major underpinning.

Tourism – travel for leisure and business - is critical to this better future. It is part of a larger “Travelism ecosystem” which spans several transport, hospitality and support industries as well as government agencies and the essential soft and hard infrastructure. Not just international but the much larger domestic flows, as well as surface and maritime travel. It is a strategic development priority - a major economic contributor at 5-10% of GDP, jobs, consumption, investment and trade, which is forecast to double every ten to fifteen years.

At the same time, impacts of the industry from carbon (transport / buildings), resource utilisation (water / food/ waste) and “people congestion” have not been effectively measured managed or regulated. And there are no comparable cost figures, because except for limited sustainability reporting, certification, indicators & awards, virtually all industry and government focus has been on benefits.

As the world moves to Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Resilience Strategies, we firmly believe this vital sector is behind the curve and must radically change traditional practices to play its full part in the existential societal shift against overuse of “the commons”, in favour of human rights and with sustainable community lifestyles.  

For our part, we have shared this global transformation journey for many years within UN and Travelism systems.  Inspired always by our friend Maurice Strong - a key architect of today’s global change and advocate of tourism as tomorrow’s sustainable development game changer.  

Three issues underpin lasting change:
Good Governance – with coherent, transparent “joined up” policies and processes, closely aligned to the new SDG and Climate programs. Incorporating nature based solutions, smart regulation, best industry practice and local implementation
Meaningful Metrics - bringing travelism and environmental accounting together into a structurally linked balance sheet approach. With the same evidenced based advocacy for sustainability and carbon reduction as for benefits and growth:
Engaged Education - today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders for a better future. Travelism school curricula, university courses and digital learning must incorporate Green Growth as a key change agent
In this spirit, with likeminded colleagues, we are building SUN (The Strong Universal Network) - an international green growth system to increase the capacity of travelism for climate resilience and sustainability at the local community level.  It will do this through a global network of innovative solar powered monitoring and learning centres, with a cloud based connectivity platform, manned by smart well trained and educated thinkers.  Linking Travelism with fundamental change areas such as innovation, renewables, big data, impact investment and the like. It will connect “green” and “growth” fulfilling Maurice Strong’s wake up call to the sector for 

Real action, targets, measurement and a new mind set that links economic, climate, social and environmental response with global inclusion as a fundament.”

Felix Dodds is a Senior Fellow at the Global Research institute University of North Carolina and an Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute in Boston he has written 13 or edited 13 books on sustainable development and for Rio+20 with Maurice Strong and Michael Strauss the book ‘Only One Earth’. He blogs regularly here  

Geoffrey Lipman is a visiting Professor at Victoria University in Australia and at Hasselt University in Belgium. He was Executive Director IATA, President WTTC and Assistant Secretary General UNWTO. He has co-authored books on Green Growth & Travelism and worked closely with Maurice Strong since Rio 1992 and latterly in China. He is curator of SUN.


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