The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has announced the 15 Finalists for its 2016 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in the five categories; Community, Destination, Environment, Innovation and People. The 15 Finalists, which were chosen after a rigorous judging process, showcase the highest level of sustainability practices within the Travel & Tourism sector.
The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards programme celebrates business leadership that works towards a more sustainable future of our sector by educating and inspiring governments, travellers and other tourism businesses.
The 2016 Awards saw applications from 62 countries across all continents. Following the first phase of the three stage judging process all applications have now been carefully evaluated by a committee of independent expert judges against established sustainable tourism criteria, which include community development, preservation of cultural and natural heritage, and innovative solutions for sustainable practices.
The second phase will see on-site evaluation of each Finalist by international sustainable tourism experts, assessing the organisations and the business practices they have highlighted in their application. Following the evaluations the winners of each category will be chosen by a further panel of leading authorities in sustainability. The Winners will be announced during the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Ceremony at the 16th WTTC Global Summit in Dallas, Texas on the 7th of April.
Awards Lead Judge, Graham Miller, Professor of Sustainability in Business and Head of School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, The University of Surrey, said: “This year’s finalists reflect the importance of knowledge in creating a more sustainable tourism industry. We have organisations who have created carbon calculators, methods of measuring impacts, developed new technology and really thought outside the traditional confines of the sector. There is still no shortage of passion and determination to drive forward sustainability, but working smarter through networks, partnerships and high level thinking mark the future for sustainable tourism”.
The Finalists of the 2016 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, which is Headline sponsored by AIG Travel, are:
Community Award Finalists, whose organisations are committed to sustainable tourism leadership in local community development, empowerment and cultural heritage
- Expediciones Sierra Norte, Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico
- Sapa O’Chau, Vietnam
- Yayasan Ekowisata Indonesia, Indonesia
Destination Award Finalists, who show commitment to supporting and delivering sustainable tourism best practices in their destinations:
- Parkstad Limburg, Netherlands
- Swiss Parks Network, Switzerland
- V&A Waterfront, South Africa
Environment Award Finalists, whose organisations and companies achieved environmental best practice through biodiversity conservation, protection of natural habitats, addressing climate change, and green operations:
- Alcatraz Cruises, US
- Lindblad Expeditions, US and worldwide
- Wilderness Safaris, South Africa / Botswana
Innovation Award Finalists, who provided innovative solutions to overcoming the challenges faced by Travel & Tourism in implementing sustainability in practice:
- ANVR, the Netherlands
- Northsailing, Iceland
- PWC, Travel Foundation & TUI Group, United Kingdom
People Award Finalists, who are dedicated to the development of capacity building, training and education to build a skilled tourism workforce for the future:
- Jus’ Sail, Saint Lucia
- Kinyei International, Cambodia
- Youth Career Initiative (YCI), United Kingdom
The Winner Selection Committee is chaired by Fiona Jeffery OBE, Chair of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and (also) includes:
- Darrell Wade, Co-Founder and CEO, Intrepid Group, Australia
- Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Barbados
- Stephanie Draper, Deputy Chief Executive, Forum for the Future, United Kingdom
Fiona Jeffery OBE, Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Chair said: It is great to see the depth and range of achievement the Tourism for TomorrowAwards are attracting. Greater innovation and longer term sustainable practises from right across the globe. We look to stretch the boundaries as an Awards Programme recognising and applauding true business leadership. It’s so encouraging to see such inspiring work being exemplified in this way as it helps our industry improve and ensure it brings better business practises to a wider community.
David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC said: “Tourism is a force for good and it is by sharing best practices and educating our peers about sustainability that we can ensure the growth of our sector is managed responsibly. The Awards, which are now in their 12th year, again will demonstrate how tourism businesses can bring positive change to communities by protecting livelihoods and the environment. The Awards Ceremony will again be broadcast online, allowing not only the delegates at the Summit but everyone around the world to hear the remarkable stories of the Finalists.”
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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