ELEVENTH HOUR: Stakeholder-empowered efforts in the Philippines for clean and green tourism

Information from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that despite the decrease of the total contribution of the tourism sector to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 at 5.4 percent, 11.9 percent of the total workforce in the country comes from hotels, resorts, and event organizers. Globally, the trend for employee count and global GDP contribution follows the national data and is estimated to increase as the world moves beyond the Covid-19 pandemic toward the new normal.

Studies on the tourism sector’s contributions to emissions paint a worrisome picture for post-pandemic operations, however, as pre-pandemic data gathered by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a 2021 publication showed that global tourism sector greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) account for eight to 11 percent of the total before the pandemic hit. In addition, GHGs in the global tourism sector may increase by 25 percent annually in a business-as-usual situation.

The challenges in charting paths for all tourism establishments in the Philippines may seem daunting. However, there are best practices, guidelines, and roadmaps published over the years that can help tourism establishments in the Philippines not just in becoming climate and environmental stewards, but also in delivering better economic benefits and local community development.

Participants in one of the workshops of Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI) on sustainable consumption and production.

One of the nationally scoped pathways for the tourism sector is a roadmap developed in 2017 by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), UNEP, UNEP-Technical University of Denmark (DTU) Partnership, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI). The roadmap called for a 30 percent reduction of GHGs for all hotels and event venues by 2030. This includes a 30 percent reduction of traditional sources of energy, and a 50 percent reduction of food waste for the said establishments.

Solutions related to sustainable food value chains, sustainable events, zero pollution, and sustainable energy measures are proposed, and measures to achieve these solutions are presented on the roadmap. The targets will be achieved through monitoring and reporting tools, such as the Resource Efficiency Tool developed to track direct emissions, as well as indirect emissions due to electricity, food wastes, food purchases, and specific types of waste. The tool also supports the monitoring of plastic purchases. Overall, 13 hospitality businesses have engaged and received technical assistance on GHG monitoring using the Resource Efficiency Tool.

PCEPSDI Project Officer Kiko Velhagen sharing the latest updates of the Transforming Tourism Value Chains Program at the Buras 2022 Agro-Tourism Summit in San Juan, La Union.

Globally, tourism establishments may refer to a published net-zero roadmap for the tourism sector by the WTTC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UNEP, and Accenture in 2021, which calls for establishments to properly set GHG emissions baselines and set emissions targets for 2030 and 2050, in line with the 1.5-degree Celsius scenario outlined by the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. The net-zero roadmap also includes measures for monitoring and reporting the progress to reduce emissions, increase awareness and collaboration with other tourism businesses, and pursue climate investments in tourism.

From left: La Union Provincial Tourism Officer Arthur Cortez, PCEPSDI Project Officer Kiko Velhagen, PCEPSDI Research Assistant Michelle Lapiz, and PCEPSDI Project Coordinator Jonas Marie Dumdum after the Buras Summit.

Lastly, tourism establishments are encouraged to look into supporting the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, launched on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference last year. Similar to the net-zero roadmap, the declaration calls for the reduction of carbon emissions in tourism establishments by half in 2030 and the achievement of net zero by the sector before 2050. The declaration also calls for five pathways for businesses to follow, namely Measure, Decarbonise, Regenerate, Collaborate, and Finance, to speed up and spread the word on climate action in tourism.

With its rich natural beauty, cities full of heritage, and wonderful hospitality unique to ourselves, the Philippine tourism sector could model the way on how the industry could remain successful while contributing to a climate-smart, sustainable, and resilient future.

About the authors:

Kiko Velhagen, Andrea Go, and Jonas Marie Dumdum are the project officer, project assistant, and project coordinator, respectively, of the Transforming Tourism Value Chains initiative of the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI), in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). They are all Climate Reality Leaders trained during the first Global Training in 2020.