Set baseline and emission targets now to achieve individual and 2030 & 2050 sector goals
Irish tourism’s carbon footprint needs to be established so progress on reducing it can be monitored on an annual basis. Only when a true and accurate reflection of the green house gas emissions caused by Irish tourism is determined, can an appropriate target be set for both 2030 and 2050. Evidence-based analysis needs to be applied in an Irish context to commence a process to establish a benchmark CO2 value for Irish Tourism.
Monitor & report progress
Once baseline and emission targets for Irish tourism are established, they need to be monitored and reported on an annual audit basis so industry knows if it is on track or behind schedule. In the case of the latter, the audit needs to determine which sector or area within tourism and hospitality is facing challenges in reducing its carbon footprint and allow industry to respond.
Provide finance and investment to industry for the transition
The Government’s Climate Action Plan published last year sets demanding targets of a 51% reduction in GHG by 2030 and net zero by 2050. A Just Transition Fund is part of the Climate Action Plan and is estimated at collecting €9.5 billion by 2030 through the carbon levy. Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry, like other sectors, must be facilitated to avail of this scheme to help businesses move to more climate friendly model. Equally a representative of the tourism industry should be part of the Just Transition Commission. With margins modest within the sector tourism and hospitality businesses throughout the country will need financial support for retrofitting, using green energy, managing waste and the like. Incentive and capex schemes need to be designed industry to stimulate transformational change.
Roll out carbon calculator for businesses
Work in this area is at an advanced stage and Fáilte Ireland is set to roll out a carbon calculator for businesses this summer. This is an important aspect of monitoring and setting metrics. ITIC welcomes the initiative and urge as many businesses as possible to adopt it. The carbon calculator needs to be user-friendly so as to encourage business buy-in.
Roll out Climate Action toolkit for industry
Similarly Fáilte Ireland are set to publish a Climate Action toolkit for the tourism and hospitality industry and this is very welcome as it should help guide business-owners and help them mitigate their carbon footprint.
Develop an off-setting project of scale in Ireland – circular tourism sustainability model
To meet the ambitious and necessary goals of carbon reduction, innovative medium-term solutions will be required. Accredited carbon offset schemes to which businesses and visitors could contribute located on the island of Ireland may have a role to play here. Offset schemes that reduce GHG emissions, improve biodiversity, engage local communities, and create the potential for employment would have the added benefit of improving the broader tourism product. The state should consider actively developing such schemes, specifically for the sector, given its extensive landholdings through semi-state companies in areas of high amenity and scenic value. This would complement the Government ‘Circular Economy Strategy’ which was launched late last year.
Create ecotourism visitor experience of scale
Irish tourism would benefit from the development of a world-class visitor eco-tourism experience of scale and international appeal. This would have the dual benefits of educating tourists whilst also, if interpreted correctly, providing an enjoyable experiential visit. Ireland’s Midlands would seem an appropriate location, with its peat and boglands terrain, and is easily accessible from all parts of the island. Capital funding should be allocated to such a project, following a feasibility study and subject to a robust business plan. An ecotourism visitor experience has the added benefit of employment and economic activity for the local community.
Simplify planning to allow for expedited energy efficiency developments
Energy efficiency developments such as wind or solar can be held up by planning objections. In certain cases these should be expedited and fast-tracked to ensure that businesses can benefit themselves and the planet from clean energy. Without such improvements to the planning process, the ability of industry to meet its targets will be potentially compromised.
Mass roll out of electric charging points aimed to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution, and congestion
Transport within Ireland is currently a significant cause of carbon emissions and needs to be electrified at a much quicker pace but is dependent on national infrastructure. This is very relevant to Ireland’s tourism industry where visitors often enjoy an Irish experience as part of a coach tour or through the hire of private vehicle. There are circa 2,000 charging points currently in Ireland but it is estimated that Ireland will need close to 30,000 if the goals of decarbonising the transport system are to be met. Ireland, with a state-owned energy supplier in the ESB, can and should roll out significantly more charging points to allow visitors enjoy their Irish tourism experience by electric vehicle.
Incentivise businesses to apply for environmental accreditation
Sustainable tourism certifications, which are guided by the UNWTO definition of sustainable tourism, are a crucial tool in the efforts of the Irish tourism industry to evolve into a truly good force in Irish society – environmentally, socially and economically. They also by definition reduce the danger of ‘greenwashing’ where companies can convey a false impression of their sustainability credentials.
Government and agencies must play a leading role in encouraging and incentivising the industry to be more sustainable and certification is central to this. Grants should be made available to businesses to help them get certified which in time could become as important a trading pre-requisite as any other requirement for tourism registration.
Ireland to sign up to Glasgow Declaration
Ireland should formally adopt the Glasgow Declaration, which was initiated at COP 26, and calls for an increased urgency about the need to accelerate climate action in tourism and to secure strong actions and commitment to support the global goals to halve emissions over the next decade and reach Net Zero emissions as soon as possible before 2050.
Protect & enhance Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage and biodiversity
Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage as well as its biodiversity is a key demand-driver for visitors across all regions. These should be supported at all times and consideration must be given to carrying capacity of certain regions and attractions to reduce negative impacts.
An industry representative on Reducing Food Waste Prevention taskforce
Food waste is a significant cost for the Irish tourism and hospitality industry as well as having a detrimental environmental impact. The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications is set to shortly publish a a National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap. This is to include a taskforce to monitor and review periodically and assess the impact of national food waste prevention measures. This taskforce is due to comprise of key sectors and organisations and it is vital that the tourism and hospitality industry is represented.