For many years, scientists have been telling us that the loss of nature around the world amounts to a global biodiversity crisis.
The media and the public have taken the message on board, but the political response has been much slower. Finally, at the end of last year, we saw the breakthrough we have been waiting for – and it means that we will all have to raise our game.
The Paris Agreement for Nature
On 19th December 2023, the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted by the CoP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The framework is sometimes called the ‘Paris Agreement for nature’, as it heralds a seismic shift in how the world will tackle the biodiversity crisis. That’s great news for the planet, but what does it mean for businesses?
What the GBF?!?
The framework is a call to action for all national governments, detailing what they need to do in order to help achieve the four Global Goals for 2050. This plan takes the form of 23 Global Targets, setting out actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss that need to be initiated immediately and completed by 2030. Eight of these involve directly reducing threats to biodiversity, while the other 15 are concerned with sustainable use and benefit sharing. Three of them in particular have far-reaching implications for the private sector.
Target 14 addresses ‘mainstreaming’ – the full integration of all the values of biodiversity into policies, strategies, regulations and even national accounting. The aim is to align all private and public sector activities with the Goals, especially sectors with ‘significant impacts on biodiversity’ like Travel & Tourism. This means that companies will need co-ordinated biodiversity strategies that look at all their activities across all departments and operations.
Target 15 centres around monitoring, assessing and reporting impacts on biodiversity, not only in operations but also in supply and value chains. It urges governments to ‘encourage and enable’ businesses to do this – especially large and transnational companies – with ‘legal, administrative or policy measures’. It also stresses the importance of progressively reducing negative impacts and increasing positive impacts on biodiversity. This confirms what we expected: that, as with carbon emissions, businesses will increasingly need to provide detailed biodiversity monitoring and reporting together with demonstrable efforts to reduce damage and restore nature.
Target 16 is about tackling unsustainable consumption at all levels, especially reducing food waste, overall waste generation and the ‘global footprint of consumption’. The approach is to support individuals to make sustainable choices, but policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks are specifically mentioned as mechanisms for doing this. This means that businesses will need to have a full understanding of environmental impacts up and down their value chain to be sure they comply with new regulations.
A Framework for Change
The GBF represents a huge commitment at the highest possible level to fundamentally change how biodiversity is valued by governments, businesses and people. The Targets give concrete steps for achieving this, and as they are implemented country-by-country they will start to affect us all. Like the Paris Agreement, they mark the global transition from talk to action. Fortunately, ANIMONDIAL is here to help you make that transition.
The Nature Positive Equation
By talking about reducing negative impacts and increasing positive ones, the GBF echoes the Nature Positive Tourism approach promoted by ANIMONDIAL and presented by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in their Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report. The Roadmap found in the report and on our homepage shows how any business in the sector can become a beacon of Nature Positive Tourism. By following these simple steps, with support from resources in the online Toolbox and ANIMONDIAL’s consultancy services, travel companies can get ahead of the game in meeting the obligations set out in the GBF.
Leading the Way
Travel & Tourism can present a huge threat to biodiversity, but it also has huge potential to be a Force for Good. At CoP15 an unprecedented coalition of the WTTC, the UN World Travel Organisation and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance united behind the Vision for Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, calling on the industry to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. This announcement set the stage for a Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Partnership, an initiative which ANIMONDIAL plans to be at the heart of, and which we hope to have more news on very soon…
What you can do to become GBF-ready:
Use the Animal Footprint impact assessment tool to start the process of monitoring and reporting on your biodiversity impacts
Become a Guardian of Nature by signing up to the Vision for Nature Positive Travel & Tourism
Find out how we can help you develop a biodiversity protection policy, strategy, monitoring system or reporting framework by booking a free Discovery Call
Finally, after years of negotiations and a tumultuous couple of weeks at CBD COP15, there is good news from Montreal – a new ‘Pact for Nature’ – and an opportunity for Travel & Tourism to establish itself as a ’Force of Good’.
The historic plan for nature was finalised in the early hours of this morning (19th December) to cheers from delegates and impassioned speeches by world leaders. It was presented as the “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Having experienced the last week myself, with up-to-the-wire negotiations, the news of a positive outcome is a huge relief.
“Nature is our ship. We must ensure it stays afloat,” said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius.
The Global Biodiversity Framework, the agreed plan for nature, sets out ambitious yet achievable plans to increase protected areas to 30% of the planet, safeguarding vital ecosystems from rainforests to wetlands, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. It includes four goals and 23 targets ranging from the sustainable use of natural resources and the reduction of pollution to the restoration of destroyed habitats.
“It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate,” hailed Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. We are still experiencing the sharpest decline in biodiversity and habitat loss in human history. It is acknowledged that this new pact for nature cannot be delivered unless the whole of society is involved. In the last week of negotiations, businesses, in particular Travel & Tourism, were recognised as a key driver of positive change, with the ability to deliver short-term goals where government efforts often fail.
Last week I had the pleasure of working on behalf of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the voice of our industry’s private sector, and together with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), to promote ’Nature Positive Tourism’. In a momentous announcement at COP15, these Travel & Tourism heavyweights acknowledged the importance of nature and the sector’s ability, as a global industry that operates at all levels of society, to become a ’Guardian of Nature’. They were united in their commitment to not only assist in the delivery of the Global Biodiversity Framework but, through the formation of a Nature Positive Tourism Alliance, to drive forward capacity-building action for businesses, the value chain, and global destinations.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Travel and nature are intrinsically linked. Wildlife tourism creates over $340BN USD each year and supports more than 21 million jobs around the world. Today’s collaboration between WTTC, UNWTO and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, spearheading the sector’s vision to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, shows our commitment to preserve the planet for future generations.”
Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director at UNWTO and Special Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said: “As part of the broad Alliance of stakeholders for ‘Nature Positive Travel & Tourism’, UNWTO shows its commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework of COP15 – making tourism the Guardian of Nature. New governance and business models, enhanced capacity to monitor positive change and scaling up green jobs are all part of the solution as we move ahead together.”
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA) said: “As an industry that relies on our natural world for everything from our buildings to attracting guests to outstanding locations across the globe, we recognise the immense importance of protecting our beautiful planet. Collaboration across sectors and across borders is essential to halt and reverse biodiversity loss… and make Nature Positive Tourism a reality.”
Dreams certainly became reality for ANIMONDIAL: not only by participating in a biodiversity COP but, off the back of our co-authored “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report with WTTC, by facilitating the establishment of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance and gaining government support for the initiative.
Our efforts at COP15 efforts culminated in a statement to the High Level Segment of proceedings, when UNWTO said: “Together, the Alliance will support and inspire governments, business, and society to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework … help transform humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and through investment in global destinations, help support national biodiversity strategies and efforts to achieve the 30×30 Targets, and so allow these destinations to become true ’Guardians of Nature’.”
Actions will, of course, be more important than words, and the ability of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance to deliver on the Global Biodiversity Framework will be the testament to its success. Work begins in January 2023 with the development of an implementation plan and by defining key outputs, but until then we can all celebrate that COP15 could not have had a better outcome for Travel & Tourism.
Global Biodiversity Framework main commitments:
- Integrate biodiversity safeguards into policies, regulations, spatial and urban planning, and development processes, poverty eradication strategies, and environmental assessments, across all sectors;
- Ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal, preventing overexploitation;
- Minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity through Nature-based Solutions, reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity, and reduce the introduction and establishment of known or potential invasive species by 50%, by 2030;
- Encourage and enable businesses to regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity along with their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios, as a mechanism to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity;
- Ensure that people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices;
- Ensure that all actions respect and protect the rights of, and customary sustainable use by, indigenous peoples and local communities.
On behalf of ANIMONDIAL, I’d like to wish you Seasons Greetings, and a Nature Positive 2023!
» Read the finalised Global Biodiversity Framework
» Demonstrate your business’ support by signing on to the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism Nature Positive Tourism
» Discover your business’ risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity. The online Nature Positive Evaluation Tool for Travel & Tourism, enabling your business to discover its impact on nature and take the necessary steps to protect & restore it.
Carbon Offsetting is, in essence, paying others to prevent, reduce or remove carbon emissions in order to compensate for one’s own emissions. It is therefore unsurprising that “carbon offsetting” has received such bad press, giving the impression that a business is just avoiding taking responsibility for its own actions.
My impression is that while some may continue to “pay to pollute’’, more businesses are turning to carbon offsetting to complement genuine action to reduce their impacts.
The pitfalls of offsetting
Of course, it is more complex than that. Businesses need to guarantee that the chosen offset is genuine, permanent, accountable, and measurable. It can be difficult to verify that projects are actually offsetting as much carbon as needed. Offsets also have to demonstrate that the emission reduction or carbon removal would not have taken place anyway, and that the investment makes a genuine additional contribution. There are even instances where offsetting programmes cause more harm than good, for instance by decreasing biodiversity through infrastructure impacts or monoculture tree planting, which could result in higher net emissions over time. It certainly pays to check before you buy to ensure your investments deliver.
Can you offset biodiversity impacts?
The market for biodiversity offsets is not as mature as the carbon one, but it is clearly subject to similar complexities and uncertainties, probably to an even greater extent. In ANIMONDIAL’s most recent publication with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, offsetting was acknowledged as a limited part of a business’ commitment to Nature Positive Tourism. This is because it is considered unreliable by many experts, and in the case of biodiversity does not directly address the impacts on species, habitats and ecosystem services that are being compensated for.
Mitigate, mitigate, mitigate
Instead, we advocate that businesses identify their dependencies and impacts on nature (including their carbon emissions) and then, using the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ (see page 39 of the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report), to prioritise their responses. This involves first avoiding or reducing both direct impacts and indirect impacts from the value chain, then taking efforts to restore biodiversity after damage has taken place or, if necessary, conduct equivalent restoration at a nearby or ecologically similar location. Only after these steps is offsetting a suitable approach to balancing remaining negative impacts. Offsetting is therefore recommended as a limited action taken as a last resort, and certainly not the only mitigating action.
Is there any place for offsetting?
In the case of carbon emissions, the Net Zero Standard set out by the Science Based Targets Initiative recommends offsetting no more than 10% of emissions, with at least 90% of savings coming from avoiding and reducing emissions. Many leading companies commit to offsetting no more than 5%.
What is the role of biodiversity in carbon offsetting?
Biodiversity loss and nature protection continue to be widely disconnected from most conversations about carbon emission reduction, despite the fact that many of the most cost-efficient, large-scale and long-term emissions reductions or removals are nature-based solutions. In 2021, the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts acknowledged that biodiversity loss and climate change mutually reinforce each other and can only be tackled together. Businesses, particularly those in Travel &Tourism, should therefore consider how to harness the power of nature (its natural ability to absorb and store carbon) to both offset their emissions and contribute to their biodiversity, as well as sustainable development goals.
Making the most of minimal offsets
Increasingly, carbon offset projects are available that also provide biodiversity and social impact benefits. This can be an efficient way to contribute to multiple Nature Positive goals at once, but it should never be used as a way to side-step more effective mitigation activities. The old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ still applies – it is far better to avoid doing the damage in the first place than to try to make up for it afterwards.
Mitigation Hierarchy Tips for impacts on nature:
- Focus on avoiding impacts by changing activities at a fundamental level – consider what outcomes the activities are intended to produce and think of other ways of achieving these.
- Maximise reduction activities with bold goals for the level of reduction – combine a range of techniques in optimal ways to get the best results.
- Restoration activities should be done on-site, for instance by replanting natural vegetation in areas that have been damaged during construction works.
- For areas that cannot be restored on site, find ways to restore equivalent natural features nearby that provide similar habitats and ecosystem services.
- Only offset as a last resort, using credible, long-term investments – where possible combine this with carbon offsetting if required.
» Learn about Mitigation Hierarchy and the Nature Positive Tourism approach
» Identify your dependencies and impacts on nature
» Learn about 5 carbon reduction actions to achieve Net Zero by ANIMONDIAL, Partner ecollective
On September 21st 2022, ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released a new report, “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”. Devised to help tourism businesses act on the very real and urgent need to better protect biodiversity and nature, the initiative provides an opportunity for the sector to transform its relationship with nature.
Travel & Tourism is in a unique position to influence the better protection of nature in every region around the world. Halting and restoring biodiversity loss is considered essential to limit climate change and for businesses to achieve Net Zero. Encouragingly, businesses are now recognising the synergies between climate regulation, biodiversity and carbon capture.
The Report, the first to frame a Nature Positive pathway for travel & tourism, explains the fundamental relationship between tourism and nature and the business case for the sector’s commitment to nature protection. It provides guidance on animal welfare safeguarding, illegal wildlife trade and pandemic prevention, sustainable consumption, and nature conservation in the context of tourism operations. It also provides insight into how these vital commitments contribute to climate change mitigation. Packed with practical steps, advice, and case studies, the Report will help businesses act for nature and contribute to climate mitigating action.
So, how can protecting biodiversity and nature reduce climate change?
Climate change is a driver of biodiversity loss. Alterations in atmospheric temperature and weather patterns, as a result of heightened carbon emissions, disrupt natural processes and displace species as they struggle to survive in a changing environment. The resulting biodiversity and habitat loss can impair the ability of plants and soils to absorb and store carbon. This means that more CO2 remains in the atmosphere – fuelling climate change. So, the more actions we take to minimise impact on biodiversity and proactively restore nature, the greater our ability to reduce greenhouse emissions, and prevent ecosystem collapse.
Travel & Tourism businesses should not only ensure nature protection is included in their decarbonisation strategy, actions also need to be taken to reduce dependency and impacts on biodiversity while seeking opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
How can Travel & Tourism help to protect biodiversity and nature?
The Report encourages the industry to adopt a Nature Positive Tourism approach by assessing operational impacts and dependencies, defining a policy and strategy to reduce them, and identifying opportunities to restore nature.
Managed well, tourism can support the conservation of wildlife, subsidise protected areas, and protect natural resources on which local communities rely. Tourism can help raise awareness, influence governments, and phase out practices that damage nature, while stimulating investment in green solutions to reduce impacts and restore biodiversity.
Nature Positive Travel & Tourism can also help people connect with nature, to experience it, but also to understand and respect it. We inspire travellers to understand the importance of nature and the need to take positive actions to protect it, we support local communities and bring value to the wildlife that they live alongside, and we drive local economies by providing jobs and opportunity, as well as influencing the legal protection of their natural heritage. Travel & Tourism is already playing an important role in the protection of nature, just think what could be achieved if the sector realised its full potential!
Accompanying the Report, is our shared vision that the sector has the potential to become a global Guardian of Nature. This recognises the sector’s ability to generate employment and provide opportunities for countries and their communities; to connect billions of people with nature; to operate sustainably to minimise impacts; and to protect the rights of local people. The Travel & Tourism Vision will be submitted, together with the Report, to the COP15 proceedings taking place in Montreal this December
Where does a Travel & Tourism business start?
- We first need to define how the business depends and impacts on animals, ecosystems and local communities. We consider not just the destinations that we visit, but also the actions and impacts at HQ level and through the supply chain. Do the products you sell, the materials you source, the buildings you run and the partners you work with also align with the same goals?
- Then we comprehensively assess all of these touchpoints against recognised, science-based targets. We appreciate this can be daunting, so. to support you ANIMONDIAL has developed the ANIMAL FOOTPRINT assessment and reporting tool, which guides a travel business through the journey.
- Once we have identified your touchpoints with nature, the next step is to take action to reduce further harm and set new achievable targets that each department can take to proactively restore nature.
» Find guidance and useful tools in the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report and Toolbox
Presenting our Vision for Travel & Tourism at the global biodiversity conference, COP15!
ANIMONDIAL, WTTC and its members, and the wider travel and tourism sector, will be presenting the ‘Travel & Tourism Vision’ at COP15 this December, in the hope that the role of Travel & Tourism, as a ‘Guardian of Nature’, will be recognised. Will you join us?
» Learn more about ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint nature-impact evaluation tool
» Read the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Report
Can Travel & Tourism become nature’s saviour?
In the coming month, the long-anticipated report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” will be published. Produced by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with ANIMONDIAL, it will help to explain nature’s ability to sustain tourism, absorb carbon emissions, prevent pandemics, and support life. It also underlines Travel & Tourism’s key challenges, which the sector must be overcome, and sets out, what I believe, is a huge potential to address biodiversity loss, and with it, climate change.
These are indeed worrying times – heatwaves are exhausting fresh water supplies, agricultural crops are failing, fish stocks dying, and wildfires destroying vast expanses of nature and people’s homes. There is no doubt that we need to reverse our exploitative and unsustainable ways and seek a future where humanity lives in harmony with nature.
Sounds great in theory, right? But with society and geo-political tensions currently taking us in the wrong direction, could this just be wishful thinking? Or is the solution yet to be fully realised?
I believe that the solution lies with responsible and sustainable tourism.
Take the last couple of years as an example: COVID-19 took hold across the world, people no longer travelled, and the tourism revenues that sustain local livelihoods and protect fragile nature, dried up. The devastating loss of income and an inability to access nutritious food, caused many local people (especially those that live alongside nature) to return to harvesting wildlife and natural resources for survival. With nature-based tourism operations suspended, wildlife poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and the degradation of nature by opportune industries caused widespread biodiversity loss – to an extent not previously seen.
These alarming outcomes demonstrate the relevance and power of tourism.
Just through its operation alone, tourism has an ability to sustain community resilience and wellbeing, while also providing for nature’s health. Consider then its full potential if efforts were directed to lessen operation impact, and support nature-enhancing actions. Imagine the extent of the benefits that could be achieved!
The WTTC ANIMONDIAL report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”, highlights these mutual dependencies as well as the business case for a Nature Positive approach. It encourages Travel & Tourism to assess and better manage its environmental impacts, while also identifying nature-related opportunities to restore, or regenerate nature. Within the publication, this process has been called “Nature Positive Tourism”.
Recognising that pre-COVID tourism revenues contributed to over 10% of global GDP, and nature-based tourism generated upwards of US$600 billion in direct in-country expenditures a year, that supported over 21 million jobs, there appears huge potential for Travel & Tourism to drive Nature Positive change. Managed well, Travel & Tourism can reverse the environmental impacts of COVID, bring greater value to nature, and help to convince even the most disengaged of communities and governments to better protect their natural heritage.
Using the “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report as a springboard, the WTTC and ANIMONDIAL hope to work with the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, and others, to position Travel & Tourism as a key player in supporting global efforts to protect our planet’s natural wonders – in effect, to become ‘GUARDIANS OF NATURE’.
ANIMONDIAL’s Nature Positive Tourism services are available for any business keen to adopt a Nature Positive approach. These services range from an evaluation tool to assess operational impact on biodiversity, risk mitigation tools, such a nature-based product ‘healthcheck’, and a matchmaker service to find biodiversity and animal protection partners to fit business need.
Adopting a Nature Positive Tourism approach can be as easy as ABC …
- Assess your business operations and activities against the five-drivers of biodiversity loss.
- Build a Nature Positive approach that integrates biodiversity safeguards throughout the business and its operations.
- Complement your actions to mitigate nature-related impacts with measurable opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
- Develop destination biodiversity partnerships with NGOs, educational institutions, or government agencies to halt any exploitation or degradation of the natural world, and restore nature lost.
- Empower your employees, destination partners and suppliers, affected communities and customers through simple yet informative communication to encourage the better protection of animals and nature.
» Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint initiative to discover your environmental impact.
First steps to identifying actions that reduce impacts and restore nature.
The main message of Nature Positive Tourism is deceptively simple – measure the ways your business impacts on nature, measure the ways it protects and enhances nature, and make improvements until the positives outweigh the negatives. The principle is simple, but at ANIMONDIAL we understand that putting it into practice can be difficult.
Focus on Destinations
The prospect of making all those improvements can seem daunting when you are only just starting the journey. In fact, it may well be simpler than it appears once you understand what needs to be done. For many, the real challenge comes earlier in the process – how do we go about measuring our biodiversity impacts and benefits in the first place?
The key to answering this, lies in the classic environmental slogan: “Think globally, act locally”. Impacts on nature come in many forms, and these depend on the activities that happen and the locations they happen in. For Travel & Tourism, this means looking at the destinations you visit.
The difference we can make
For many travel businesses the focus may be on providing services to customers, however most of the environmental impacts will actually take place on the ground. This is where new developments can destroy vital natural habitat, or existing sites can secure and enhance it. It is where nature viewing trips can disturb and harass wildlife, or sensitively and sustainably fund its protection. Where food supplies can be flown in from intensive farms hundreds of miles away, or sourced from sustainable local agriculture. Destinations are ‘where the rubber meets the road’.
We are all about the Destinations
For many Travel & Tourism businesses, this will mean looking at products and supply chains. In our industry no company is an island – we have to work together to make our clients’ travel dreams come true. Everyone involved in that process has a stake in the traveller’s experience in the destination, and so everyone has a stake in the consequences of that experience. Travellers around the world are increasingly aware of their impacts and keen to ensure that their trips don’t ‘cost the earth’. We have to work together, as an industry, to meet their needs and demands. (The upcoming WTTC and ANIMONDIAL report on Nature Positive Tourism provides a clear and compelling focus for doing just this.)
Focusing on key destinations is crucial to understanding the environmental impacts and opportunities of a Travel & Tourism business. It is likely that operations will vary from one place to another, but it is certain that nature will. A broad understanding of environmental issues at each location is essential to identify the major threats, challenges, needs and opportunities for the wildlife and ecosystems that live there.
Your guide to thinking local
ANIMONDIAL can help Travel & Tourism businesses build that knowledge and insight. Whether you choose to create extra capacity in-house, through local partners or by engaging professional consultants, we can guide the process with the level of input you need. As well as supporting you with our years of experience and contacts, ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint online tool offers an evaluation of your Nature Positive business performance. We also have a network of trusted partners that can provide specialist services. Whether you want to identify the biodiversity at a specific site with Nature Metrics eDNA analysis, calculate the economic value of a particular animal in your area with the Endangered Wildlife Biodiversity Valuator or conduct a rapid assessment on the ground with Organeco, we can help you identify and engage the expertise you need.
Where does the journey start?
As with so much of Travel & Tourism, local knowledge is the key. As we build our understanding of an area, our nature-related impacts and opportunities within it become clear. So, if you want to improve your Nature Positive credentials but are still wondering where to begin, just remember that a Nature Positive Tourism journey starts at the destination!
Don’t forget …
- Think about impacts and opportunities in the Destinations you serve
- Work closely with suppliers and partners as a Travel & Tourism team
- Build lasting partnerships with local nature-focused NGOs and other organisations to generate additional benefits for everyone
I joined many conservationists last week in cheering loudly when the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) finally announced that COP15 – the global biodiversity summit – will go ahead in Montreal (Canada) from 5 – 17 December 2022.
The previous location of Kunming (China) had experienced two years of setbacks and there were even doubts whether the vital conference would take place in 2022.
COP15 seeks to secure the commitment of 196 countries (Parties to the CBD) to ratify the proposed Global Biodiversity Framework and adopt its nature protection goals. Effective implementation will require the efforts of global governments, businesses and all sectors of society to reduce and reverse environmental damage if the ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets are to be met – to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature.
The Good news is that confirmation of the COP15 dates will help to focus minds during the current negotiations. The additional time between now and December can be used to mobilise the high-level commitment required to avert a cataclysmic loss of biodiversity. We are already experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, with the rate of extinction of plant and animal species at least 1,000 times faster than would be expected without human influence. Time is of the essence, but we do still have a chance to lessen the decline and prevent ecosystem collapse. Failure to do so will threaten our wellbeing, prosperity and survival. The urgency must surely spur action.
ANIMONDIAL is proactively focused on supporting the travel and tourism sector. Our Services provide guidance for businesses that wish to adopt a Nature Positive approach, including capacity-building training, a directory of nature-friendly project partners, and an evaluation tool, in development, to identify dependency and impact on nature.
As with all industries, travel and tourism is implicated in driving biodiversity loss. However, unlike many other sectors, it has a unique opportunity to become a significant influencer for transitional change. I would go so far as to say that nature-aware travel and tourism, that values nature through all its offerings across destinations, could be a vital part of the solution to this biological crisis. This was a conclusion in our upcoming publication, Towards a Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, produced by ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The Bad news is that the content of the Global Biodiversity Framework has yet to be agreed by all Parties. While the pre-COP15 negotiations in Geneva and Nairobi have refined the targets, specifically those related to conservation and sustainable use, progress in other areas is reportedly slow and lacks ambition. Issues over money for protecting biodiversity, proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, and concerns over the stealing and commercialising of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources (biopiracy) have hindered an advance. Civil society is reportedly “appalled” at the lack of progress following the emergency meeting in Nairobi last week, calling on countries to “step up [and] show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions.” It is hoped that governments will take the opportunity between now and December to overcome their differences and commit to ambitious actions to halt biodiversity loss and ensure stronger protections for life on land and in the sea.
The Ugly matter of benefit-sharing and biopiracy continues to divide ‘Developed Countries’ and ‘Developing Countries’. In fact, it threatens to derail the global agreement. Countries, including Brazil, India and Gabon, are demanding payment for drug discoveries and other commercial products based on their biodiversity. Meanwhile, additional demands on richer countries to pay £80bn in biodiversity finance to help subsidise conservation efforts, are causing further divides – similar to those currently hampering negotiations for the next climate change conference (COP27) scheduled for this November in Egypt.
There is a desperate need to overcome this impasse for the Global Biodiversity Framework to be ratified and biodiversity protections applied. Focused discussions and creative solutions will be needed to find common ground and move the process forward.
Travel and tourism, and the huge revenues generated through nature-based tourism, could well provide a solution. Not only does tourism underpin national and local economies, but job creation and community empowerment bring heightened value to nature, encouraging positive attitudes towards its protection. When structured well, our industry can help to provide income and development opportunities to fairly compensate lower-income countries for protecting their biodiversity. Often the most biodiverse locations on Earth, the low-income countries also help sustain travel and tourism and its revenues.
The increased international attention on commercial impacts on nature will present travel and tourism with an opportunity to demonstrate its potential for positive contributions and to play a leading role in building a global Nature Positive future.
Businesses will soon be required to adopt procedures that assess the environmental consequences of their decisions, specifically with an aim to minimise impact and act to better protect nature.
Ultimately this recognises that Nature is everyone’s business – and that businesses, as well as the rest of society, must play their part to reverse nature loss. While that sounds the right thing to do, navigating the complexities of the topic(s), to select and apply positively impactful outputs, is far from simple. In fact, it can give rise to many conflicts or dilemmas, such as – what should I try to protect, what are the priority issues, and how to decide actions towards set goal(s) when these may also affect progress towards others?
Protecting wildlife and nature is increasingly defined by our individual values. For instance, are we protecting species and ecosystems, of which wild animals form a key part, for our own sustainable use, or should wild places be left alone with little human interference? Equally, should we only consider wild species as numbers, such as the population of tigers, or should we give greater value to the wellbeing of each individual animal?
I certainly have my own views and values, but when it comes to me providing impartial guidance to Travel & Tourism professionals who wish to support wildlife conservation, I aim to provide information and an overview of opinions to allow informed decisions. Ultimately, the decision what or whom to support resigns with you and your business, but there are some fundamental considerations that I would always encourage before a decision is made.
To navigating this rocky path, I would suggest considering the following ethical perspectives to help you make your informed decision on business actions to protect animals and nature:
Sustainable viewpoint – animals and nature are essentially a resource for human use, the ethical constraint of protective measures is to make sure that wildlife can be used sustainably. For instance, CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) manages legal wildlife trade, only restricting trade if a species is threatened with extinction.
Utilitarian viewpoint – aiming for the best outcome overall by considering both the negative and positive implications. Since animals can suffer if their circumstances negatively impact on their welfare needs, animal welfare should always be considered, even if the animals are in the wild. This perspective can have significant implications for wildlife management, particularly if the animals are causing harm to the people or the natural environment. Opting for a humane approach in all scenarios is our moral obligation.
Animal rights viewpoint – recognises that humans and other animals share physical, biological, and mental similarities, and we should not kill, confine, or otherwise interfere in their lives. This perspective considers the rights of humans and animals in equal measure.
Respect for nature viewpoint – protecting the ‘integrity’ of species, or overall biodiversity, where the protection of species in the ecosystem, to maintain functioning ecosystems, is prioritised. While invasive species that threaten either native species, or ecosystem health, should be removed or killed.
Local viewpoint – consideration for species that are particularly important for the sustainable development of the local community. Whereby animal and plant species, wild or modified, provide vital services or materials, or have a spiritual or cultural importance.
You have probably aligned yourself, or your business, with one of the above perspectives – and that’s not a bad thing. Although from my experience, while each of these ‘viewpoints’ present valuable insights, I would propose a combination of these perspectives when considering your wildlife and nature protection priorities. That way you are applying the necessary due diligence, considering the likely conflicts and dilemmas, before deciding the right choice for you, or your business.
In my opinion, it should not be all about sustainable use, for example. Sustainability does not necessarily mean an activity is responsible and does not cause unnecessary harm. While we do need to ensure our use of wildlife does cause its extinction, we must surely recognise that animals can suffer, and actions must be taken to protect an individual’s welfare whatever the overall goal.
Whatever you decide, I imagine you will agree, that whichever path and perspectives you adopt, it should aim to protect people, animals, and planet.
» Find out more about how businesses can support wildlife and nature conservation
» Keen to learn how to Protect Animals and Nature in tourism?
» Want to discover your business’ Animal Footprint?
Returning from Geneva earlier this month, I was inspired by the sense of urgency demonstrated by national governments, the private sector and civil society, in their acknowledgement that biodiversity protection matters.
I attended the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG), which was tasked with considering the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This is Nature’s equivalent of the Paris Climate Agreement, a framework of 21 action-oriented targets aimed at better protecting animals and nature over the decade to 2030.
There was a real impression from the meeting of 196 national governments and global stakeholders – the first in-person meeting for years – that nature is everyone’s business.
That the required transformational change in society’s relationship with animals and nature will need a cross-disciplinary and global collaboration – particularly if humanity needs to “Live in Harmony with Nature” by 2050 (CBD). Governments, business, and civil society must all work together to save nature to save ourselves.
ANIMONDIAL attended with Business for Nature, a global coalition of forward-thinking businesses and conservation organisations, to amplify a powerful leading business voice calling for governments to adopt policies now to reverse nature loss. It was encouraging to learn from various businesses, particularly those that rely on natural resources, and those whose operations potentially impact on nature, that actions are being applied to avoid or minimise negative impact. Furthermore, the realisation that business facilitation tools and procedures already exist and are helping business to mainstream biodiversity values and measure and mitigate impacts.
Sadly, ANIMONDIAL was the only business attending the CBD meeting representing the Travel & Tourism sector. Travel & Tourism is not only highly dependent on nature, but it is instrumental to the financing of protected areas across the globe, influencing policy change, and supporting sustainable development and community empowerment. In fact, this one sector has a significant opportunity to demonstrate its potential for positive contributions and play a leading role in building a global Nature Positive future.
This is the key messaging incorporated into the Travel & Tourism whitepaper on biodiversity and nature protection – soon to be published by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in collaboration with ANIMONDIAL. This report will bridge knowledge gaps, outline common challenges, and set out a Nature Positive Tourism approach that combines climate change mitigation principles with nature protection and sustainable use, to achieve a nature-friendly, low-carbon future.
Whilst the ongoing CBD negotiations are reportedly, disappointingly slow and lack the required ambition (Wildlife Conservation Society), it is important to recognise the role of the private sector. When managed well, its potential to influence meaningful change.
My hope is that when we again congregate at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in Kunming, China, later this year, the private sector, and in particular Travel & Tourism, will have an influencing role. Whilst governments will ultimately need to agree to adopt the Global Biodiversity Framework, it will be the private sector and the wider society that will be required to fulfil its goals. After all, Nature is everyone’s business.
» Keen to learn how to Protect Animals and Nature in tourism?
» Want to discover your business’ Animal Footprint?
» Unsure about the meaning of biodiversity, nature or Nature Positive?
» Find out about the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
A key objective for ANIMONDIAL, as my colleagues and I draft the WTTC whitepaper on Nature Positive in Travel & Tourism, is to keep it simple. Not because the topic is simple – grappling with biological terms like ‘biodiversity’, ‘ecosystems’, ‘biosphere’, or even ‘Blue Carbon’ can be challenging – but because it is vital that these fundamentals are understood.
This understanding underpins the recognition that the natural world is not only integral to the growth and prosperity of Travel & Tourism, but also vital to the happiness, health, and survival of all humanity.
Consider the difference between biodiversity, ecosystems, and nature, for instance. These can easily be confused, and while their differences may not be important for some, an explanation can help convey why each has a different role to play. I compare nature to a machine: it needs various parts to operate, and energy to drive it. The parts include a wide range of ‘living’ things – this is what we term biodiversity – together with ‘non-living’ components – such as air, water, and soil – and all the interactions between them. Ecosystems are systems within the machine, separate (but connected) groups of living and non-living things, working together to perform many functions. They produce energy and circulate nutrients, clean and enrich the air that we breathe, and provide fresh drinking water, food, materials and even many important medicines – performing what are called ecosystem services. The analogy, while simple, explains the importance of each component and why their loss must be avoided, quite literally, at our peril.
The focus of ANIMONDIAL’s work is to support the Travel & Tourism sector to adopt a Nature Positive approach. As it sounds, this encourages and inspires actions that have a positive impact on nature, while taking measures to minimise or avoid activities that damage nature. Travel & Tourism can drive biodiversity loss and degrade nature, but managed well – by educating customers, employees, and in-destination partners, adopting safeguards, and supporting Nature-Based Solutions – Travel & Tourism can be a force for good, influencing local communities and government to better protect their natural heritage.
These actions are considered as integral to achieving Net Zero, another term that is increasingly promoted. This was the focus of ANIMONDIAL’s January blog. Net Zero is achieved when CO2 emissions are fully balanced by actions that remove and store carbon, so the net increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is zero. Many natural processes can be harnessed to remove and store carbon, and global experts recognise that biodiversity loss and climate change mutually reinforce each other and, being driven by the same human activities, can only be tackled together. Failure to do so will have negative consequences on human wellbeing and our quality of life.
While it is vital that all actions and activities that drive biodiversity loss and release CO2 are minimised wherever possible, actions that protect biodiversity and restore nature are equally important. Not only do such measures help maintain the planet’s functioning ecosystems (and the services they provide) but boosting biodiversity can help ensure that greater amounts of atmospheric carbon is absorbed and stored. Actions which use nature protection and enhancement to remove and store carbon are often referred to as Nature-based Solutions.
Maintaining nature’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis in plants and store it in living tissues or dead ‘organic matter’ – either on land (Green Carbon) or in seas and oceans (Blue Carbon) – is key to Nature-based Solutions.
One of our main jobs at ANIMONIDAL is to ensure that the complex world of animal and nature protection is made simple for our clients. By using straightforward and clearly explained terminology we can help to ensure a greater understanding of the issues, the need to act, and the practical options available to adopt a Nature Positive approach.
A sustainable society requires both a stable climate and healthy ecosystems.
ANIMONDIAL has long championed a Nature Positive approach for Travel & Tourism, and in 2022 we celebrate our Year for Biodiversity, recognising the importance of biodiversity and its role in the race to Net Zero. Working with our partners, we aim to guide and support Travel & Tourism towards a Nature Positive future through:
- A whitepaper, in collaboration with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), that positions Travel & Tourism as a force for good in bringing greater value to nature and encouraging its better protection. It will explain the importance of nature, highlight the impacts of mismanagement, provide examples of best practice and champion the opportunities available to Travel & Tourism to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature.
- eTraining, in collaboration with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). This comprehensive guide for travel providers, tour guides and DMOs on the importance of animal and nature protection in tourism will include expert guidance and interviews, accessible narrative and supporting materials.
- Evaluation of business performance to identify dependencies and impacts on biodiversity and the natural environment. Our ANIMAL FOOTPRINT tool is aligned to industry guidance and biodiversity targets to ensure your business is on course for Net Zero and Nature Positive.
- A Nature Positive toolbox, allowing us to provide Travel & Tourism partners with bespoke solutions to boost biodiversity, restore nature, and reduce carbon emissions both through our services and by engaging experienced specialist organisations.
» Contact ANIMONDIAL to find out more and how you can get involved
» Find out about ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Protection Network