Carbon reduction - our view

Back in October 2009 we made the important decision to remove carbon offsetting from Responsible Travel. From being the first travel agent to give our travelers the chance to offset their carbon emissions back in 2002, we are now one of the first to remove that option.

Our position - although it's surprised many - is the same as that of Friends of the Earth, Oxford University Business School and The Committee on Climate Change.

We believe that offsetting distracts from the real issues - that is we all need to be reducing our carbon emissions as much as possible. Offsetting flights has too often been seen as an opportunity to go on flying the same amount or more.

Our view
1. Responsible tourism overseas helps sustain livelihoods, local communities and the conservation of the world's natural and cultural heritage. In many developing countries responsible tourism is a powerful tool in poverty reduction. We are passionate advocates of all these benefits of responsible overseas tourism.

2. We plan to play a very active role in growing the market share of overseas responsible tourism businesses. We hope and expect that the very small share of the global tourism industry that these businesses currently occupies will grow significantly at the expense of businesses who cannot evidence responsible tourism.

3. Unfortunately aviation's contribution to CO2 emissions, while relatively small at circa 5-6% in the UK, has grown dramatically over the past 30 years and will continue to rise. We need to reduce the world's overall CO2 emissions dramatically, and every sector - including aviation - needs to play its part. We think that the general public, Governments and wider society will increasingly feel that it is unacceptable for aviation to go on increasing its carbon emissions quickly.

4. Notwithstanding the efficiencies that airlines are making, in order to reduce global CO2 dramatically the simple fact is that the world needs to fly less in total (and ultimately Government's will have to take responsibility for this rather than leaving it to consumers).

5. We want to give the best and most responsible advice to tourists. This is to reduce their carbon emissions across all aspects of their lives. With regard to travel the options include; taking fewer and longer vacations; use trains for journeys of less than 800 miles instead of low cost airlines; and taking some vacations closer to home in the UK. Finally, when they do choose to take an overseas vacation 'make it count' by making sure it is a responsible one.

6. There are vast numbers of very good organisation and businesses selling UK vacations, we've always sold some but don't see this becoming the focus of our business. We will continue to help to establish the responsible tourism sector of the international tourism industry, and support those businesses active in it to grow their market share as this is our strength.

7. Finally, we know that many people (and businesses) are using offsets as an excuse to carry on business as usual, and to make no changes in their emissions. One example of this is 'carbon neutral' hotels that have no carbon reduction plans, another is people flying more and more because they can offset.

Bikes, plane, train, woodland, clouds

We think that the reduction message is far more important than the offset message. In order to try to shift the focus to the reduction message we no longer offer offsets, this was done after a lot of thought and advice over several months from Friends of the Earth. We accept that when a person or business has reduced its emissions, then it is valid to offset the rest.

Read Friends of the Earth's report, Carbon Offsets: A Dangerous Delusion

Visit our Carbon Caution page for more on our position and the debate

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