As the Doomsday Clock closes in on midnight, the term “global warming” and its reactionary partner “climate action” have taken on significance beyond buzzwords. Recognizing the true urgency of climate change and its leading role in addressing this global issue within the tourism industry, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has become increasingly proactive in recent years to offset its carbon footprint.
The organization named Climate Action as one of its four strategic initiatives and has partnered with South Pole, one of the leading global firms in decarbonisation that works across a number of industries and specializes within the travel sector, as a long-term partner and advisor to accomplish its carbon offsetting goals. With the help of dedicated staff and the support of Visit Sweden as the Adventure Travel World Summit’s (ATWS) sustainability partner, the ATTA selected the Kariba REDD+ project in Zimbabwe to offset the upcoming annual event in Tuscany, including all delegate and staff travel.
In 2016, the ATTA held its first carbon-neutral event with the planting of 5,000 trees on the Rios Tropicales Private Rainforest Reserve in Costa Rica to offset more than 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide created during that year’s ATWS. Continuing this commitment, the next year’s Summit was also offset with 4,000 trees planted in Las Costas Nature Preserve, located on the outskirts of Salta, Argentina, site of the 2017 annual event. The strategic partnership with South Pole furthers the ATTA’s commitment to offset the impact of all staff travel throughout 2018. In 2019, South Pole will continue to offset all ATTA team travel as well as AdventureELEVATE in Lake George, New York, and ATWS 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden. By 2020, the ATTA has pledged that all staff travel and the entire annual portfolio of events around the globe will be carbon neutral.
“The ATTA has elected to focus on reforestation projects because they provide benefits beyond the offset, such as increased habitat for wildlife and support for biodiversity,” said Russell Walters, the ATTA’s regional director for North America. “Given the adventure community’s deep connection to landscapes globally, we felt this project met those goals with its clear intention on preventing the destruction of more forested areas.”
The South Pole boasts a portfolio of more 700 projects. Taking into consideration the ATTA’s goals and values, one of which is preserving natural and cultural habitats for future generations, the company presented several projects for consideration for 2018. The ATTA chose the Kariba REDD+ project, a reforestation and community-based project on the southern shores of Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba, that not only protects precious ecosystems and endangered species but also promotes the well-being of local communities. Additionally, the project supports seven of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“As part of our mission to enable climate action for all, we’ve been privileged to work with various players within and beyond the tourism industry,” said Franka Bosman, senior business development manager of transport, travel, and tourism for South Pole. “We are very proud to partner with the ATTA on their climate action journey and hope that their commitment will inspire other industry leaders to join the movement and become drivers for more sustainable travel.”
The ATTA’s commitment to the Kariba REDD+ project is made possible through its sustainability partnership with Visit Sweden. “Visit Sweden has been a climate-neutral company since 2009. As a national tourism office, we see it as our responsibility to lead by example and that is why we felt it was important to be a sustainability partner at ATWS in Tuscany,” said Anneli Lemon Crichlow, project manager for Visit Sweden. “Part of our mission is creating long-term growth for the tourism industry in Sweden, and we want to do so while showing consideration for both people and the environment. To us, sustainable marketing and operations mean that we maintain a balance between financial, social, and environmental factors.”
As a result of the instability within this region of Zimbabwe, a vast amount of forest was cleared to make room for farming or provide materials for rudimentary homes. The Kariba REDD+ project works with existing communities to improve agricultural productivity, and to promote sustainable income streams that allow locals to live in line with conservational requirements. Since its launch in 2011, the Kariba REDD+ project has prevented more than 18 million tons of carbon dioxide from emission into the atmosphere by preventing deforestation and land degradation in an area of nearly 785,000 hectares of forest and wildlife.
The project site is surrounded by the Chizarira, Matusadona, and Mana Pools National Parks (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. The area acts as a corridor, connecting three national parks and eight wildlife reserves in northern Zimbabwe, which is home to numerous vulnerable and endangered species, including the African elephant, lion, common hippo, lappet-faced vulture, and southern ground hornbill.
“The Kariba REDD+ project’s raison d’être is to create opportunities and income by assigning more financial value to forests and wildlife when healthy and thriving, rather than felled or hunted down — a tall task due to the difficult economic and political situation in Zimbabwe,” said Abel Alan Marcarini, senior forest and land use expert and project manager for Kariba REDD+. “Kariba REDD+ helps safeguard over 700,000 hectacres of forests and precious ecosystems in northern Zimbabwe through conservation farming, community gardening, fire management, beekeeping, and tree planting, among others. The support of the ATTA and Visit Sweden is absolutely crucial to continue financing and upscaling these activities and to support sustainable livelihoods for generations to come.”
The Kariba REDD+ project also supports regional sustainable development, and the independence and well-being of local communities by educating them on the long-term values the forest and animals provide as opposed to illegally destroying them. Community members are establishing their own businesses and farms, taking pride in fruit tree cultivation, pest management, eco-tourism, and beekeeping. Locals use the income from honey sales to contribute to household needs and additional schooling opportunities.