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ATTA Pursues Climate Education, Action Focused on Carbon Removal

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Commercial adventure travel companies have actively pursued a range of environmental conservation, wildlife protection, and social goals for many years. In our industry, there are countless examples of companies that, upon comprehending a local problem, have found a way for their businesses to help drive positive change while finding a solution to that problem. One straightforward example is tour revenues that help fund local projects.

When it comes to the universal problem of climate change, however, the adventure industry recognizes the power individual companies have is significantly enhanced when they are able to aggregate into groups and act as a collective. One example of this is the cost savings groups of companies are able to obtain for carbon offsets when they work together. During an Adventure Travel World Summit session in October 2018, Gert Niewboer from SNP said carbon offsets were possible for his business and others participating in a regional collective at $3 USD per ton, whereas companies purchasing offsets individually might be paying three or four times that amount.

SNP’s Gert Niewboer speaks at Adventure Travel World Summit 2018 in the session, Extending Adventure’s Impact: How Adventure Travel Professionals Can Implement Climate Action in Their Businesses and Beyond. © ATTA / Hassan Salum.

Taking the notion of assembling a collective for carbon offsetting a step further, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and other tourism-related businesses are exploring the potential of carbon removal. Why? Because carbon offsetting, while an important step in the right direction, will not be able to address the problem of carbon dioxide already concentrated in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide emissions accumulate over time, and while some of this is removed through natural processes (such as reforestation efforts), the carbon in stock has already surpassed what tree planting alone can solve.

David Hone photographed in Antarctica, 2018

The tourism industry, in particular, relies on systems using oil products to power our transportation and accommodations. This will likely be the case for decades to come, past the point in time at which the world needs to be at zero emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Without question, a new practice beyond offsetting must emerge.

Carbon removal, or carbon capture, is one approach the ATTA is exploring. To learn more about carbon removal, the ATTA invited David Hone, author of Putting the Genie Back, to provide a basic primer for tourism stakeholders. In addition to serving as the chief climate advisor to Shell, Hone is a ClimateForce expedition leader and board member of the International Emissions Trading Association, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and the Global Capture and Storage Institute. As he shared in his recent webinar for the ATTA, The Case for Removing CO2, the most meaningful action tourism businesses can take is to remove from the atmosphere the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to what they emit, thereby resulting in an effective outcome of zero emissions, or what is widely referred to as “net-zero emissions.”

Recognizing the opportunity for collective action from the tourism industry, and in an effort to connect with other business leaders focused on solutions to the carbon emissions problem, Casey Hanisko, president of the ATTA / Adventure 360, will travel to Iceland in April to visit Climeworks, a pioneering company that has developed a technology to remove carbon dioxide from the air. She will join a group convened by The Explorer’s Passage in cooperation with 2041 ClimateForce to meet with executives from the Climeworks facility as well as Verne Global, whose data centers are 100 percent climate-neutral and powered by geothermal and hydro energy resources. Jeff Bonaldi, founder of Explorer’s Passage, explained his purpose for assembling the delegation: “We believe the adventure travel industry has the power to lead the world in the fight against climate change. By transforming the way people traverse and care for our planet, our industry can lead as an example on how sustainability should be incorporated in business.”

Renown polar explorer Robert Swan and his son Barney Swan recently applied Climeworks technology to reverse emissions stemming from the flights and associated logistics necessary for their 2018 South Pole expedition. They will also be a part of this delegation and sharing their perspectives on the issue.

On behalf of the ATTA, Hanisko said, “Climate is the most relevant topic for our industry right now. We’re exploring a carbon removal plan to complement ongoing industry efforts such as offsetting, sustainable transportation, and zero waste. I look forward to learning and networking with leaders from a range of industries to see how, together, we might lead a carbon removal plan for the tourism industry.”

This article is part of an Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) initiative addressing important topics identified as critical to the protection and continued advancement of the adventure travel industry. Each initiative — eliminating plastics, women in leadership, climate action, and young leaders — has a dedicated team focused on building awareness of, advancing educational opportunities in, and creating a lasting impact on each of these areas within the adventure travel industry. We invite you to visit the ATTA’s initiatives page where you can access reports, read the latest news, participate in active projects, and join conversations within the membership community.

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