It really depends on who you speak to, whether CoP26 was judged a success. Yes, the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed by 197 countries in the final hours. And yes, there were some ground-breaking side agreements on coal, forests, cars, and finance. But there remains a huge gap between the pledged emission-reduction targets and those agreed in Paris in 2015.
Further, there remains a lack of commitment from high-income countries to subsidise the lower-income countries that are, for the most part, more affected by climate change. On a positive note, however, there is broad agreement that change is going in a positive direction, despite the gap that must be filled to limit global warming to 1.5°C
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018), the leading authority, states that exceeding a 1.5°C global temperature rise would be catastrophic for much of life on Earth. Some island nations believe that they will not survive the sea-level rise, let alone the increasingly destructive weather patterns.
What is certainly clear is that we can’t wait for our governments to step up and bridge the gap. CoP26 reports indicate that talk of net-zero is mostly just talk, with plans to offset emissions alarmingly light on detail (Economist, 2021). Climate change action has become a political football, with those willing to act only committing to distant targets. So, what can we do when our political leaders fail to take a strong lead?
Businesses must ultimately take charge, and I was encouraged learn that during CoP26 businesses were pushing ahead to focus minds and deliver actions. The ‘Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism’, the ‘Declaration on Forests and Land Use’, and the ‘Ocean for Climate Declaration’ are all intended to bridge the gap between good intentions and meaningful climate action; tangible actions that finally and firmly put biodiversity on the climate agenda.
As countries and businesses – and even individuals – consider their actions to achieve net zero, few consider the relevance of natural systems. It’s ironic, when these can present a host of sustainable, low-cost solutions to many of our challenges: including harnessing the capability of many ecosystems to absorb and store carbon. You may have heard the recently-coined term “nature-based solutions”, referring to the protection and restoration of natural habitats and wild areas as a way to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere. Regular readers of ANIMONDIAL’s blogs will have already seen examples of the evidenced benefits of forests, oceans, and their biodiversity. Nature is an essential part of the effective and efficient response to climate change, and also to avoiding future pandemics and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It is my firm belief that bridging the gap between emission reduction and carbon capture need not be a difficult and complex task. Effective actions to enhance biodiversity and restore nature will narrow that gap. Yes, it would help if our governments would regulate business to measure its impact on nature, and to demonstrate reduced negative impact, as proposed by Target 15 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. But why wait until this becomes law? We know what has to be done. Businesses, in fact anyone, can play their part in minimising negative impacts and boosting biodiversity.
What can you do?
ANIMONDIAL’s recommended path to minimising negative impacts, bridging the gap, and achieving Net Zero:
- Evaluate your business operations and activities against validated, inter-related indicators to measure your impacts and dependencies on nature. Discover your ANIMAL FOOTPRINT here.
- Identify where your business is doing well and, where you can do better for animals and nature.
- Calculate your carbon emissions across your operations: transport, goods, food & beverage, services, etc.
- Commit to meaningful, time-bound, evidence-based targets across priority locations to halt and reverse the loss of nature and achieve Net Zero.
- Minimise your negative impacts on nature by reducing activities that drive biodiversity loss.
- Decarbonise your business operations and activities across your supply chain. Shift to alternative materials and actions to reduce carbon emissions.
- Regenerate and restore ecosystems in partnership with others, applying nature-positive action across your value chain.
- Invest in nature-based, community-led solutions that support local people who live alongside natural areas, and encourage nature guardianship.
- Encourage governments and policymakers to adopt and implement ambitious nature and climate policies
ANIMONDIAL will continue to work with our travel and tourism partners to support and advise businesses to better manage their impacts on nature and boost biodiversity through community-based, nature-positive solutions.
» Work with us to make the world a better place
REPORTS FROM CoP16
- Launch of the Glasgow Declaration: A commitment to a decade of climate action in tourism | UNWTO
- Nature in the spotlight at UN Climate Conference COP26 | Business for Nature
- Was COP26 in Glasgow a success? | The Economist
There is now no doubt, planetary health, animal exploitation, biodiversity loss, emergent disease and climate change are all interconnected and stem from the often-exploitative human activity on the natural world. The costs of inaction will be far greater than the costs of resolution. Whereby everyone will be affected unless everyone plays their part.
At CoP26 next week, the UN Climate Change Conference, world leaders will debate how and when, during a year of unprecedented challenges, they will implement actions to fulfil the Paris Climate Accords. Ultimately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. Planet Earth is currently experiencing its highest atmospheric CO2 concentrations, that has not been equalled for millions of years. Inactively to reduce emissions will result in temperature rises that threaten the balance of life and the collapse of everything that gives us security.
An inevitable outcome of CoP26 are regulatory measures that will enforce decarbonisation, which are understandably at the forefront of the minds of the green-conscious business that wants to play their part. For the travel and tourism sector, however, limiting carbon emissions, whilst recommended, can only be minimal.
Nature-enhancing solutions, on the other hand, provides the sector with a relatively cost-effective solution to this conundrum. Nature is the very fabric on which all life on Earth is based. It includes the plants and the animals, the soil and the rock, and the air and water on which life depends. Whilst biodiversity refers to the multitude of living things that make up nature – the 8 million or so species on the planet – including us, humans. Nature has the natural ability to absorb and store carbon so, the greater the biodiversity, the greater the amount of carbon stored. Travel and tourism already value nature, from its vital eco-system services to the uniqueness it provides to the destinations we love to visit. This literal lifeline offers travel and tourism an opportunity to bring greater value to nature, ensure its better protection, and ultimately position the sector a force for good.
This was my proposition to the Latin American travel and tourism sector during the LATA’s EXPO this October. Latin America is hugely undervalued, considering it is the most biodiverse geographical region on Earth. It is home to most of the known amphibian species, birds, mammal species, and an amazing 60,000 species of tree! Not only that, but its forests produce 20% of the oxygen we breathe, act as a store of 50% of all the carbon dioxide we humans produce, absorb solar radiation, limit the Earth’s reflectivity, regulates our freshwater supply, and stabilise climatic conditions. All vital allies in our struggle to combat climate change. Yet 100 acres of rainforest is cleared every minute, with Amazon wildfires, said to cause the loss of 10 million hectares each year. Why? Because local communities currently put greater value on the conversion of forest to agricultural land, than the protection of the forests.
Tourism has the ability to reverse this disruptive, and life-destroying trend. Managed responsibly, tourism can bring greater value to these wild places, encouraging the better protection of animals and nature, and incentivise local guardianship rather than deforestation.
To that end, ANIMONDIAL and the LATA Community are working together to reduce travel and tourism’s negative impact on the region where possible and champion nature-enhancing practices. Launching in 2022, a year devoted to biodiversity, the initiative will celebrate Latin America’s rich biodiversity. Mobilising governments, businesses, and communities to bridge the gap in knowledge and understanding, identify and minimise negative impact, adopt sustainable practices and restore nature lost.
Whatever happens at CoP26, action on climate change is already affecting the way we value land and ecosystems. But waiting for our governments to act may be too late, let this be an opportunity for travel and tourism to take the reins, and ensure biodiversity-rich, lower income countries have the opportunity to benefit financially from restoring their climate-friendly landscapes. Delivering nature’s approach to lessening climate change and our ability to work in harmony with nature.
It is now just weeks until the world’s governments meet to decide the necessary steps for addressing biodiversity loss and climate change.
CoP15 (11 – 15 October) will consider global actions to reverse biodiversity loss, whilst CoP26 (31 October – 12 November) will consider global climate action. Both events will bring together the governments of most nations (a Conference of the Parties) to negotiate and agree targets and actions to tackle these increasingly imposing crises, now regarded as interconnected issues requiring a joined-up approach (IPBES & IPCC, 2021).
There is, of course, concern that there will be ‘the dodgers’, those who fail to recognise the threats and act on their responsibilities, and others who may still claim there is nothing to worry about. But the facts, and the evidence of the need to act, couldn’t be clearer. Stark reports show that Planet Earth is facing its 6th Mass Extinction of wildlife, with biological diversity disappearing and threatening our reliance on fresh air, water, food, and wellbeing (etc.), as well as contributing to the ever-eventful severe weather. These issues affect us all. There is literally no room for dodgers at these CoPs!
The scientific community has clearly presented the case: a “Code red for humanity” where “big systematic changes [are needed] and fast” to address “the huge scale of the challenges we are facing” (IPCC & IPBES, 2021). Whilst this is difficult reading, particularly at a time when the travel and tourism sector is seeking to bounce back following the pandemic, still we must act. While our governments decide on the CoP targets, we, as businesses and individuals, must not dodge our responsibilities. We must act now to minimise negative impact and adopt the necessary measures to fulfil biodiversity protection targets.
ANIMONDIAL, the specialist consultancy that advises the travel and tourism sector on all matters concerning animal and nature protection, has adopted the call to action: “Build Back Better for Animals”. It recognises that such an action will not only seek to reverse biodiversity loss, but also reduce climate change. Pursuing this mandate provides a valuable opportunity for the travel and tourism sector to become a driver of positive change, counterbalancing its unavoidable impacts with widespread direct and indirect benefits. ANIMONDIAL’s initiatives provide travel businesses with the means to identify and minimise impacts while supporting nature-based solutions: actions already aligned to the (anticipated) CoP15 outcomes.
ANIMONDIAL’s step-by-step approach will certainly cater for those businesses already looking to make strides to fulfil their biodiversity protection and climate action obligations, while the rest will wait for CoP outcomes, legal requirements, and likely incentives.
But why wait?
In fact, we already know the probable outcomes of CoP15, as presented by the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which governments are currently considering. The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, a group of 60 countries chaired by Costa Rica, France and the UK, is pushing for far-reaching, concrete action on biodiversity. It joins UNEP and multiple NGOs in advocating, as a minimum, the goal of putting 30% of global land and sea area under protected status by 2030. Some supporters include additional milestones such as a 5% increase in the “area, connectivity and integrity of natural systems” and the halting or reversing of the current increase in the global extinction rate.
These are all measures that can become objectives for the Travel and Tourism sector. Nature is already integral to much of the tourism product offering and the destinations we all love to visit. Ensuring its protection, and where possible, regeneration, will incentivise the better protection of nature and wildlife, from community to government levels, through the benefit of tourism revenues. This presents a relatively simple nature-based solution to counterbalance tourism’s unavoidable impacts.
Reducing carbon emissions is the current call to arms, and this is certainly required. But as travel businesses, emission reductions will always be limited. However, tourism’s ability to better protect animals and nature is a huge opportunity to fulfil obligations addressing both biodiversity loss and climate change.
How to Build Back Better for Animals
ANIMONDIAL’s path to nature-based solutions through tourism
» Join our mission to Build Back Better for Animals
Whilst CoP15, to set new global targets to protect Biological Diversity, is now likely to move from October 2021 to May 2022 (due to the pandemic), there is no reason for businesses to wait to play their part. Why wait for our governments to act when everyone is responsible?
Last week, when the EU Block launched its proposed new Green Deal, we were reminded of the urgency we face, we are already in the ‘make-or-break decade’ in the fight against the climate and nature crises. Policymakers and governments will set targets and the regulatory framework to enact it, but this will take time, require political support, and the need for each industry, business, and individual to understand the need and what to do. Time that we don’t have.
This was certainly my view when ANIMONDIAL successfully pitched to draft the guidance document to support the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Buenos Aires Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade. The Declaration sets out clear targets for the Travel & Tourism signatories to aim for, but it doesn’t provide instruction on how to achieve them, neither does it recognise the different kinds of businesses and their unique services and operations. The WTTC guidelines, Preventing Illegal Wildlife Trade, crafted by ANIMONDIAL, bring clarity to a complex issue, and provides travel businesses with relevant advice to follow and viable actions to take. Tourism can proliferate illegal wildlife trade and hinder its elimination, but it can also influence the protection of wildlife, so as travel businesses, please do what you can to adopt the guidance.
The recent pre-CoP15 announcements by both the EU and the UN Convention of Biological Diversity, propose some ambitious targets to address the climate and nature crises. However, sceptics are already questioning their viability, pointing out that not one government achieved the former Aichi Targets for biodiversity, and so far, none of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are likely to be fulfilled by 2030. It is a concerning thought that many of those required to support or meet the proposed EU and UN targets are already saying they are not achievable!
Let’s consider some of the targets proposed by the EU and UN for a moment:
- Protection for 30% of the World’s land and Oceans by 2030 (currently at 15.7% and 7.7% respectively) (UN)
- 1/3 climate crisis mitigation delivered through valuing and protecting nature (UN)
- Reducing pesticide use by 2/3 (UN), eliminating plastic pollution (UN), higher renewables targets and taxing carbon emissions (EU)
- Planting 3 billion trees (EU), protecting ‘old forests’ (EU) and cutting species extinction rates by 90% by 2050 (UN)
All welcomed targets, and perfectly achievable if applied globally, enforced by national legislative framework, and underpinned by effective, sector-specific guidance and actions. Let’s not wait for the governments to meet, for the targets to be set, and for the legal frameworks to be applied. Businesses and their leaders should decide their own sector-specific targets and the guidance to provide the individual business with relevant advice to follow and viable actions to take.
As travel and tourism businesses, you already value nature and what it uniquely brings to the product you sell and the destinations you visit. Through your operations, nature and its wildlife can be better protected, negative impact minimised, and actions customised to improve safeguards and optimise outputs. Why wait until May 2022 to act?
Acting now, and if managed well, travel and tourism can be a force for good. It can value wildlife, their habitats, and destinations – which in turn incentivises national and local action to better protect animals and nature.
Now is the time to Build back Better for Animals.
» View WTTC’s Guidelines on Preventing Illegal Wildlife Trade
» Sign up to our initiative to Build Back Better for Animals
- First draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework | CBD.int
- EU’s green deal plans launched with ‘make-or-break decade’ warning | European Commission | The Guardian
The future of tourism is heavily reliant on nature – from the reported 21.9 million jobs involved in Wildlife Tourism (WTTC, 2019), to the sector’s dependence on ecosystems services, to what nature uniquely brings to destinations across the world.
Nature is integral to our prosperity and wellbeing, it supports human development and equality, our resilience to viral pandemics and climate change, as well as its support of millions of other species. The World Economic Forum estimates Nature’s economic value generation at US$44 trillion – half of the world’s total GDP.
It is somewhat ironic then, that little has been done to curb humanity’s unsustainable consumption of the natural world. Our collective ecological footprint now far exceeds Earth’s rate of regeneration (Nature, 2021). Human activity has already altered over 70% of Earth’s land surface (IPBES, 2019) and more than two-thirds of the oceans (Halpern et al., 2015), with our indirect impact damaging much of what remains. This cumulative activity has resulted in the loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, with an on average, 68% decline in the abundance of monitored mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish (WWF Living Planet Report, 2020), and 1 in 5 recorded animals and plants – c. 37,000 species – now facing extinction (IUCN, 2021).
Let’s put this in context, we are slowly destroying the fabric of life that we all rely on for survival.
Consider rainforests for example, these are the oldest ecosystems on Earth, with some surviving in their present form for over 70 million years. The most famous rainforests are found around the Equator, like the Amazon, but there are also cooler, temperate rainforests, largely found in Northern America and Europe. Rainforests only cover 6% of Earth’s land area but are known to support over 50% of the planet’s biodiversity – one of the most biologically important natural habitats on Earth.
In addition to the astonishing natural heritage, rainforests are considered the ‘lungs of the world’, producing about 20% of our oxygen and act as a store of approximately 50% of all the carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) produced by humans. They absorb solar radiation, limit the Earth’s reflectivity, maintain the Earth’s fresh water supply, and stabilise climatic conditions. Vital allies in our struggle to combat climate change.
Rainforests are biodiverse and vital to planetary health, but also essential for combating climate change.
The problem is that world’s rainforests are disappearing. Reportedly 100 acres (40 hectares) of rainforest is cleared every minute for agricultural and industrial development. In the Pacific Northwest of America, logging companies cut down trees for timber and paper, in the Amazon, wildfires, believed to be lit by farmers and cattle ranchers, ravaged 2.24 million acres of forest in 2019, whilst in the Congo, roads sliced up the forests, destabilising the ecosystem. The latest research indicates that due to the deforestation, wildfires, and rises in climatic temperature, large expanses of rainforest could become arid savannahs – losing all those healthy benefits.
I was lucky enough to have lived in the subtropical Peruvian Amazon some 22 years ago. I lived and worked at Explorer’s Inn, a tourist lodge, once a renowned tropical ecology field station. Where I predominantly worked as a tour guide, but also helped document the abundance of species. This area has amazing biological diversity, with more than 1,200 recorded species of butterflies, 632 listed bird species, 103 amphibian species, 180 species of fish, 169 species of mammals and 103 reptile species – an astonishing roll call. Imagine how devastated I was when I returned 20 years later to find a lot of the forest gone, and converted for farming. Of course, I would always support the need for people to earn a living and support their families, but at the cost of a habitat that is so vitally important to the planet and the survival humanity? There must be another option.
At ANIMONDIAL, the specialist animal tourism consultancy, we have a firm belief that tourism holds the solution to many of these problems. Managed well, tourism can be a force for good – bringing much needed revenue and investment to natural habitats in such destinations. Influencing and encouraging national governments, businesses, and local communities to place greater value on safeguarding their natural heritage than converting natural environments into agricultural or industrial use. A strategy that is likely to supporting many more local livelihoods, whilst also protecting such vital habitats from harm.
To help guide and advise travel and tourism businesses to minimise their negative impact on animals and nature, and help them optimise biodiversity protection, ANIMONDIAL has developed a series of new consultancy services packages. These can be customised to any need, type or size of travel business, and can catering for those businesses that have yet to include any animal protection safeguards into their operations, as well as those that have started the journey.
Managed well, minimising negative impact wherever possible, tourism can be the force for good – protecting and regenerating Earth’s natural habitats and ecosystems.
» Check out ANIMONDIAL’s new services for travel businesses
» Sign up to our initiative to Build back Better for Animals
On International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May), we are reminded that ‘we’re part of the solution’ #ForNature, where tourism can be a force for good.
From the air that we breathe, the water we drink, to the food that we eat, we all rely on biodiversity. It refers to the variety of life on Earth – beginning with the genes that define the millions of different species of plant and animal, and their communities, within a wider fabric of interconnecting relationships in a physical environment, which we commonly called ‘Nature’. As with all other animals, humanity is part of it, reliant upon it, and due to our global dominance, we are its problem, as well as its solution.
The travel and tourism sector already know the importance of nature and what it uniquely brings to many travel destinations across the world. Nature is integral to our prosperity and wellbeing, but it also supports human development and equality, our resilience to viral pandemics and climate change1, and supports the lives of millions of other species. In fact, The World Economic Forum estimates Nature’s economic value generation at US$44 trillion2 – over half of the world’s total GDP!
Ironically, it is the improved global economic growth, the rise in living standards and increased demand for natural resources over the last 50 years that has directly driven biodiversity loss3:
- Land-use change – the conversion of land cover (e.g. deforestation), a change in eco-system management (e.g. intensive farming), or changes to landscape configuration (e.g. fragmentation);
- Over-exploitation of natural resource – overfishing, hunting, and logging, including the harvesting of species for traditional medicine and the pet trade;
- Climate Change – global warming changing climate and weather patterns that then impacts on ecosystems;
- Pollution – nitrogen deposition through fossil fuels and fertiliser causing ecological changes;
- Invasive species – introduced species displacing native wildlife and disrupting natural ecosystems.
Poorly managed, and tourism contributes to all five of these direct drivers of biodiversity-loss. However, when better managed: seeking to minimise negative impact, and maximising the value given to nature and its biodiversity, tourism can ultimately be a force for good.
In fact, there is an opportunity for the travel and tourism sector to do much more than just count and reduce carbon output, there is an opportunity to better protect animals and regenerate the natural systems that naturally absorb carbon and bring back stability to life on Earth.
ANIMONDIAL, the specialist consultancy, supports the travel and tourism businesses to better protect animals and nature. Its impartial guidance and community-led conservation projects offer a means for the tourism sector to review and improve their activities and embrace the “silver bullet”4 to lessen biodiversity-loss and climate change, and save ourselves.
This “Endangered Species Day” (21 May), as we stop for a moment to consider the fact that more than 37,000 species are now threatened with extinction5– there is no more pressing a time to do what we can to better protect animals and nature.
What can I do to better manage my impact on animals and nature?
Reduce your company’s negative impact on nature
- Adopt animal welfare and protection principles, advocated by ANIMONDIAL, and offer only responsible tourism activities with animals and respectful wildlife viewing practices that uphold good welfare standards. Receive a bespoke service from ANIMONDIAL.
- Evaluate, or audit, all your tourism activities / experiences that involve animals to identify and measure risk, end inappropriate activity, and seek to improved standards in animal welfare.
- Discourage your suppliers from sourcing animals from the wild; unless there is a demonstrable and justifiable conservation need. If in doubt, contact the national CITES Management Authority6.
- De-list tourism activities / experiences that involve the hunting of wild-born or captive-bred animals for the purposes of sport, trophy, or entertainment.
- Request that your suppliers do not commercially trade, breed or exploit their animals (this includes zoos, aquaria, animal sanctuaries, rescue centres and orphanages7).
- Product procurement teams and Destination Management Companies should inform all suppliers to ensure they do not sell or promote the sale of any of these unsustainable wildlife products. Refer to the European Commission’s Wildlife Souvenir’s Guidevii and use tools to identify threatened species8,9.
- Ask your customers not to pick up, collect or buy animals or parts of animals (including corals, sponges, shells, etc.) or plants (including orchids, seeds, seedlings, etc.) from the wild. Use online tools to identify the conservation status of the species involvedi, vii, viii.
- Ask your airline partners not to transport live animals, trophies or products derived from animal or plant species that are listed under CITES Appendix I or classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ or ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
Maximise your protection and restoration of nature
Select one of ANIMONDIAL’s trusted, community-based animal protection initiatives through its Animal Protection Network10. Such as Ape Action Africa, that protects gorillas and chimpanzees, supporting local livelihoods, and protecting primary forest. The following video features Alex Benitez, Sanctuary Manager at Ape Action Africa, Cameroon, and provides an introduction to the organisation.
Collaborate with others to make a difference
- Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Build Back Better for Animals initiative and receive a 30-minute FREE consultation and discounted services.
Changing our relationship with nature is too great an issue to be left to the scientists and policymakers. We must all take responsibility, end destructive activity, and strive to return what we have lost. Business (no matter the size) has a crucial role to play, by putting nature at the core of their activity and decision-making, assessing, mitigating, and managing animal and nature-related risk.
ANIMONDIAL is here to help you identify tangible actions that are right for your business. Contact us today.
- World Economic Forum (2020) COVID-19 and nature are linked. So should be the recovery.
- World Economic Forum (2020) Global Risk Report
- Steffen, W. et al. (2015), “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet”, Science, Vol. 347/6223, pp. 1259855-1259855
- Professor Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, ITB Berlin 2021
- IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM
- UNEP-WCMC & CITES Secretariat, providing information on C US Fish and Wildlife Service, CITES permits and certificates
- ANIMONDIAL (2019) Animal sanctuaries: more than just a name
- European Commission, The Wildlife Souvenirs Guide
- ANIMONDIAL (2020) Animal Protection Network
Today is Earth Day. A day to celebrate the amazing place where we live, but also a time to reflect on our relationship with Planet Earth and, as ‘normality’ resumes, our reliance upon it.
This last weekend, the British public left their houses en masse. With every reason to celebrate, spend saved up money, and meet loved ones, but we must not forget why we were stuck in our homes for months… Indeed, COVID-19 still presents a significant risk, and as recorded global deaths exceed 3 million, efforts need to focus on bringing it under control, but also to ensure it never happens again.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded its investigation into the origins of COVID-19. It issued a call to action for global governments to suspend all markets “where live animals are held, slaughtered and dressed”, noting they “pose a particular risk for pathogen transmission to workers and customers alike”. They concluded that COVID-19 most likely originated from a species of bat, infecting humans via another, yet to be identified, animal species. Where the mixing of animal species, usually from unknown origins and of unknown health status, coupled with poor hygiene and housing conditions, provide the ideal conditions for the emergence of new pathogens that include zoonotic viruses (like COVID-19).
Live animal markets were also implicated some 17 years ago, following the SARS pandemic. Then the live animal markets were initially suspended but soon resumed, unchallenged and unchanged, despite the risk.
Whilst SARS was not as deadly as COVID-19, it is a type of coronavirus. Why no action was taken then by the international community is not understood, as on hindsight, their permanent closure could well have prevented COVID-19. Clearly international pressures must be applied today, to end these known incubators of dangerous disease.
But what does emergent disease have to do with Planet Earth?
Evidence unequivocally demonstrates that planetary health, biodiversity, climate change, and emergent disease are interconnected. Whereby the often-exploitative human activity on the natural world (i.e. animal abuse, wildlife trafficking, land conversion, habitat fragmentation, etc.) drives biodiversity-loss and climate change, and further, directly corresponds with a sharp increase in human infectious disease originating from animals (known as zoonoses). Reducing such practices, will likely aid the restoration of nature and reinstate its ability as a protective barrier against disease.
Nature should not only be regarded as the ‘silver bullet’ to lessen climate change (as concluded in ANIMONDIAL’s previous blog), but it is also considered the ‘silver bullet’, to protect us all from emergent diseases. Check out ANIMONDIAL’s 5-point plan to better protect nature.
What can the travel and tourism sector do to help?
The sector has the ability to influence change, particularly in those destinations that rely on tourism revenues. Such action will not only help to discourage animal exploitation, and encourage the better protection of animals and nature, but it also has the means to mitigate future pandemics.
By example, FOUR PAWS, the international NGO is calling on the travel and tourism sector to help bring an end to the dog and cat meat trade, which they evidence to proliferate zoonotic disease in tourism destinations. Their investigations in Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam have revealed that up to 30 million companion animals are killed every year for their meat in Asia and are frequently slaughtered in markets alongside other species, contributing to the threat. This is highlighted by this infographic:
Whilst few western tourists are likely to venture to intentionally eat either dog or cat, tourists are exposed to risk in marketplaces, restaurants and along trade routes frequented by tourists. Dogs and cats, along with many mammals, are implicated in the transmission of disease. Most notably the fatal diseases of rabies and cholera but, due the species mixing in the live animal markets, could well be implicated in the next emergent disease.
FOUR PAWS is seeking the support of the travel and tourism sector to raise concern with the authorities and encourage an end to the dog and cat meat trade. FOUR PAWS sets out the dangers of the trade to public and animal health and provides recommendations for future action, in the full report.
The COVID-19 pandemic magnifies numerous systemic problems, including widespread exploitation of natural resources, ineffective environmental protection, social and economic inequalities, and substandard healthcare systems. If we are to truly build back better, actions must break down the silos, exploring the synergies and convergence between climate, biodiversity, and public health.
» Support the FOUR PAWS pledge to protect local people and tourists alike from zoonotic disease
» Sign up to Build Back Better for Animals and nature
There is no doubt, Planet Earth is experiencing the highest atmospheric CO2 concentrations that have not been equalled for millions of years, with resulting temperature rises threatening the balance of life and the collapse of everything that gives us security.
ANIMONDIAL, the specialist consultancy supporting the travel and tourism businesses to better protect animals and nature, acknowledges the Climate Emergency, and offers a means for the tourism sector to embrace the “silver bullet” to lessen climate change and save ourselves.
This requires much more than just counting and reducing carbon output, it requires the better protection and regeneration of the natural systems that already absorb carbon and bring stability to life on Earth.
Professor Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, speaking at ITB Berlin earlier this month, acknowledged that nature is our “silver bullet” to combating climate change. He acknowledged nature’s ability to absorb carbon and maintain ecological balance, advocating a complete change in global priority-setting, whereby animal and nature protection underpins all human activity.
Whilst tourism can exploit nature, wildlife, and the limited natural resources, if managed well, it brings value and investment to animal and nature protection, and ecosystem services. Tourism can be a force for good and through cross-sector effort, tourism could become the driver for meaningful change. ANIMONDIAL helps guide travel and tourism businesses to make the right choices to Build Back Better for Animals and nature.
Humans and domesticated animals now account for 95% of all biomass on Earth, with wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians being about 5% (Bar-On et al., 2018; Elhacham et al., 2020). Human activity has already altered over 70% of the Earth’s land surface (IPBES, 2019) and more than two-thirds of the oceans (Halpern et al., 2015) through the loss of biodiversity and habitat degradation (IPBES, 2019). This has already resulted in an average 68% decline in population sizes of vertebrate species (WWF, 2020) and 1 in 5 recorded animal and plant species facing extinction (IUCN, 2020). Humanity is already consuming 1.6 times more resource than the Earth can naturally provide (Global Footprint Network), and if nothing is done to lessen the impact, nature’s ability to prevent atmospheric CO2 overload and spiralling global warming, will be severely compromised (C. Bradshaw et al., 2021).
Scientists, NGOs and governments have been telling us for years that humanity must seek to better manage its impact. Various global initiatives have tried to bring structure and interpretation to the required efforts (UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Targets, the Triple Bottom Line, etc.) but as acknowledged by Anna Pollock during ATTA’s AdventureELEVATE Virtual Europe, these have all failed to achieve their goals – crippled by a lack of commitment, collaborative action, an overabundance of targets and a lack of sector practicability. Later this year, CoP15 on biological diversity, and CoP26 on climate change, may well set more targets, which could well fail, but perhaps we should instead focus on priorities rather than trying to address every challenge at once?
Whilst it is easy to become overwhelmed and disillusioned by the mounting evidence of the Climate Emergency, there is hope. Hope that through our concerted efforts, we can lessen negative impact, better protect and regenerate nature, and improve the Earth’s ability to retain ecological balance. Businesses, not only governments, must step-up and adopt sustainable practices that better protect the life on which we depend.
ANIMONDIAL does not claim to have all the answers, but it does have the vision and the drive to work with others, combine knowledge and efforts, to simplify complexity and overcome challenges, and the ability to deliver meaningful change. In the months and years ahead, ANIMONDIAL will do what it can to connect, inform, inspire, and empower sustainable and regenerative tourism that prioritises the better protection of animals and nature – but we cannot do this alone.
What can you do?
Reconnect with nature
As a part of nature ourselves, we must provide opportunity for travellers to reconnect, understand, appreciate and respect nature as our lifeline for wellbeing and prosperity.
Safeguard individual welfare
Ensuring all animals involved in holiday or vacation offerings / excursions have a life worth living. Where a respect for life on Earth starts with recognising and safeguarding their individual and species-specific needs.
Overcome industry challenges
Alternative to ‘stop sale’, work with your partners and suppliers to develop responsible alternative experiences to those activities with animals evidenced to compromise animal welfare and survival.
Protect threatened species
Underpinning biological diversity, efforts must seek to prevent the killing, wild-capture, trade and sale of animal and plant species threatened with extinction, and to better protect endemic fauna and flora.
Invest in nature
Bring much needed support and value to community-based animal protection and nature conservation, encouraging local people to value wildlife and natural habitat alive, not dead.
Together we can Build Back Better for Animals, where nature-friendly tourism is part of the solution to lessen the global problem of climate change.
» Learn more about ANIMONDIAL’s Build Back Better for Animals! Sign up to the initiative and received information and exclusive offers on trainings and services.
- Bar-On, Y. M., Phillips, R., and Milo, R. (2018). The biomass distribution on Earth. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115:6506–6511. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1711842115
- Bradshaw CJA, Ehrlich PR, Beattie A, Ceballos G, Crist E, Diamond J, Dirzo R, Ehrlich AH, Harte J, Harte ME, Pyke G, Raven PH, Ripple WJ, Saltré F, Turnbull C, Wackernagel M and Blumstein DT (2021) Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future. Front. Conserv. Sci. 1:615419. doi: 10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419
- Elhacham, E., Ben-Uri, L., Grozovski, J., Bar-On, Y. M., and Milo, R. (2020). Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass. Nature 588, 442–444. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-3010-5
- Global Footprint Network (2021)
- IPBES (2019). Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Paris: IPBES Secretariat.
- WWF (2020). Living Planet Report 2020. Gland: WWF.
This year, there are two important international events to galvanise efforts to address the deepening crises of biodiversity loss and climatic change.
The Convention of Biological Diversity in China in May will seek to secure commitments to halt biodiversity-loss, whilst the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, will aim to further the Paris Agreement goals and reduce carbon emissions.
These will both require cross-government commitment but, it will be their resulting actions that will be assessed for years to come, as to whether enough was done to avert these crises and reach a ‘new stable state’.
Sir David Attenborough gave an impassioned speech to the UN Security Council this week. He urged the assembly of nations for their immediate collaborative action to avert the global “collapse of everything that gives us security”, to work together to lessen climate change, and “to value nature… beyond money”. He recounted the rising global temperatures, current atmospheric CO2 concentrations “that have not been equalled, for millions of years”, the despoiling of oceans, and the catastrophic decline of biodiversity as the contributing factors. Above all, he recognised the need for every one of us to do what we can to lessen the resulting disasters ahead.
We, of course, expect our governments to step-up, listen to Sir David and other experts, and take the immediate, necessary action but, what can we do as businesses, and as individuals?
I know many of us are currently focused on our own survival during this current COVID-19 crisis, but it is also an ideal time for the travel and tourism business to review its pre-pandemic activity: identify negative impact, and seek to better manage, or ideally minimise it. I believe that actions must now be more than just ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’, in fact we should adopt a multifaceted approach that seeks to address the key drivers of climate change: carbon emissions, over-exploitation of natural resources, and biodiversity loss.
Animal protection may not be the priority for most travel businesses, but recognising its impact on climatic change, perhaps it should be…
I co-founded ANIMONDIAL to help the travel and tourism sector work through the complexities of animal and nature protection in tourism and identify which actions can be taken to minimise negative impact and restore the health of the natural environment. It is certainly vital to ensure your product offerings are aligned to your animal protection commitment but why not also think about how you can restore biodiversity in the destinations you visit. ANIMONDIAL’s Build Back Better for Animals initiative is offering webinars, trainings and services to inform, inspire and empower travel and tourism professionals. Providing all that you need to assess impact, and review and improve current practices.
For example, consider what you can do to better protect our oceans and seas.
These cover 70% of Earth’s surface and within them live tiny plant-like organisms, known as phytoplankton. Just like plants and trees they contain chlorophyll that capture sunlight and use photosynthesis to convert it to energy, producing oxygen as a by-product. Phytoplankton are as equally important as rainforests and woodlands and produce over 50% of the world’s oxygen and absorbs 50 x more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere (World Economic Forum, 2019). They also support all life within seas and oceans, including approximately 16% of all animal protein consumed globally and the livelihoods of 40 million people (OECD, 2016).
Damage to these fragile environments, through pollution (plastic, chemical, fertilisers, etc), overfishing and trawling, damping of waste, etc., kills the phytoplankton, realising stored carbon, and removes that life support. Not only does this exacerbate global warming, but also threatens to change our climate and weather patterns. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “more than 90% of the warming that has occurred on Earth over the past 50 years has happened within the ocean”.
The point I wish to make is that whilst it is important to focus on carbon emission reduction, such as converting to green energies and cutting out single-use plastics, it is equally, if not more important to protect and regenerate the life on Earth that already exists. From ‘Life Under the Water’ (SDG14) to ‘Life on Land’ (SDG15). A mature tree holds over 100 times more carbon, and life support, that a newly planted sampling; placing more importance to preserving primary forests than planting more trees.
By adopting measures to better protect animals (biodiversity) and nature (life support), we have a chance to lessen the crises that Sir David had said are inevitable if ‘we’ continue on ‘our’ current path.
Each month I aim to focus on different natural environments and mention projects that are doing great work to better protect that environment. Offering travel businesses the opportunity to learn about their work, I hope travel businesses will support their activities and fulfil their SDG obligations. This month, acknowledging the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development – a framework to support the sustainable management of the oceans – I have focused on actions to save ‘Life Below Water’ SDG14 – “to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. The following are all members of ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Protection Network:
Save the Aegean is an initiative of the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation that aims to form an alliance between environmentalists, scientists, businesses, and consumers to reduce the environmental footprint on this popular sea.
Save the Aegean aims to contribute to the protection and preservation of the Aegean Sea’s rare biodiversity, through filling in knowledge gaps via research and awareness raising through effective conservation actions and eco-tourism.
The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary aims to become the world’s first sanctuary for dolphins, displaced from zoo attractions, and provide rescue and rehabilitation of sick, injured or ‘at-risk’ marine animals. Serving as a model of a multi-disciplinary teaching facility, AMLS will focus on providing solutions-based initiatives to better protect marine mammals and turtles through a ‘unified’ Mediterranean Marine Mammal Rescue Network.
The Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust (BECT) has been set up to enable and support local communities and environmental activities aimed at the preservation and restoration of Barbados’ natural assets including the conservation of its marine life. Supported projects include the protection of marine life, particular turtles, and the regeneration of its coral reefs. Efforts seek to restore the country’s marine biodiversity, protect its beaches from erosion, and boost the attractiveness of the habitats for ecotourism.
A UK-based organisation, CCell was founded to solve the one of the of most devastating effects of climate change: The degradation of the world’s coral reefs and coastal erosion. CCell provides a cost-effective, long-term and sustainable solution by utilising energy from renewable sources to generate rock at a rate grown 2-3 times faster than in nature.
Corals grown in hatcheries are planted onto the rock creating a reef benefitting the environment and providing comprehensive coastal protection. Their pilot project in Mexico is underway and in collaboration with the local community and international artists, they now wish to develop an underwater attraction to appeal to the eco-tourism market and extend the protected marine zone. The project aims to improve knowledge and encourage cross-community support creating a site of marine restoration, environmental education and cultural appreciation.
Please get in touch if you would like to be introduced to one of these exciting projects that are protecting Life Below Water.
Now that the disastrous year of 2020 is behind us, we can all look forward with new hope. Hope that the road to recovery is short lived, hope that tourism will once again support opportunity and development, but also the hope that the threat of further pandemics will be averted, and the fallout never happens again.
We now know that COVID-19 is an animal-borne disease, or zoonotic disease, its passage to humans eased when nature’s natural barrier has been eroded or removed. The World Health Organisation estimates these kinds of diseases account for 75% of all newly detected human pathogens over the last 30 years. Disease, and potential pandemics, which could be averted if biodiversity loss is halted and nature’s health restored.
This is a stark reminder that habitat degradation, animal exploitation, biodiversity loss and climate change are not someone else’s issue but actually affect us all. Facts that certainly help to focus our minds, but ‘not knowing what to do’, or ‘how to do it’, often prevents action, and change.
I co-founded ANIMONDIAL, a specialist consultancy, to help travel businesses cut through the complexity and understand the impacts of their actions on animals and nature, and in so doing, to take responsibility, make informed decisions, and minimise detrimental activity. Protecting animals may not be the first topic that springs to mind when developing your sustainable business strategy, but perhaps it should be…
Not only do we share our planet with 1.8 million+ other species, but their welfare and survival are integral to ours. If poorly managed, tourism tends to exploit animals, degrade their natural attributes, cause habitat and biodiversity loss, and result in climate change, human-wildlife conflict, and viral emergence. However, tourism can be a force for good too, influencing the better protection of the natural environment, its biodiversity, and animal welfare, through tourism revenue and operation. The World Economic Forum estimates nature’s economic value generation at US$44 trillion — that’s over half of the world’s total GDP!
It was therefore shocking to learn that large numbers of animal and plant species are in drastic decline, with monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish having reportedly declined by on average by 68%, since 1970 (Living Planet Report, 2020). According to the IUCN, one fifth of the world’s animals and plants are now threatened with extinction. There appears to me no greater need, and reason, to halt biodiversity loss and Build Back Better for animals and nature.
“We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last that can do anything about it.” — Tanya Steele, Chief executive, WWF
So, as we consider how to Build Back Better during tourism’s resurgence — and we must at this opportune time — it is imperative to follow a more considered approach to sustainability planning and application:
- Acknowledge that environmental, social, and economic impacts are related and interconnected. Consider the fact that a problem may be better addressed at its cause, rather than focusing on the consequence.
- Define your commitment, informing your customers, partners and suppliers, and integrate it throughout the business with defined roles and responsibilities for each team.
- Don’t feel you need to shoulder solution development alone, work with others (experts, partners, suppliers and other travel businesses) to overcome industry challenges.
- Always consider the wider implications of your actions on local people, individual animal welfare, and the natural world, before they are negatively affected.
- Join ANIMONDIAL to Build Back Better for Animals and seek to protect both the animals involved in your product offerings and experiences, and the animals whose welfare may be indirectly compromised within the destinations you visit.
» Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Build Back Better for Animals and benefit from exclusive offers and discounted services
In 2021, ANIMONDIAL launched a series of webinars and workshops to inform, inspire and empower travel and tourism businesses to Build Back Better for Animals. » Check out what’s on.
Join ANIMONDIAL, together with other travel experts, for a lively panel discussion at the Adventure Travel Networking Conference on 5th February to consider the implications of Building Back Better. » Find out more