Article by Diploma in Climate Friendly student, Mark Bibby Jackson.
Climate hope. This is the key lesson to be drawn from the first ever Climate Friendly Travel Diploma course launched by SUNx Malta earlier this year. Like many of the participants – and perhaps some of the organisers – I little knew what to expect from the course when I enrolled. I certainly did not imagine the key message to be one of hope.
For this is not the narrative most commonly associated with the Climate debate, where images of a burning planet, natural disasters and a clock ticking towards our inevitably doom abound. Instead, on the course I have learned that a strong post-Covid Travel & Tourism sector could help us achieve our Paris Agreement 2050 targets.
The Climate Friendly Travel Diploma is the brainchild of Professor Geoffrey Lipman, part homage to his friend the late Maurice Strong, architect of the UN Sustainable Development and Climate Framework, and part academic analysis of the Climate debate and its implications on the Travel & Tourism sector. “Clean and green” is how Professor Lipman encapsulates Climate Friendly Travel. Thereby he distinguishes it from other ethical travel movements, such as sustainable, eco- and now regenerative that tend to focus on the more green element of positive tourism. In so doing they ignore the existential nature of Climate Change and its potentially catastrophic impact on both the Travel & Tourism industry, and life on earth. Or, as Professor Lipman puts it, “it’s like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic”.
From his many years within the industry Professor Lipman has compiled an impressive list of expert lecturers, including Dr Susanne Becken; Professor Ian Yeoman; Felix Dodds, Associate Fellow, Tellus Institute, Boston; Ignace Schops; and Jeff Poole, Senior Vice President Advocacy of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
One student, Pratishtha Parajuli from Nepal, currently living in Canada, believes the “course content is practical and relevant to the current context”.
“Each and every lecturer on the course is an expert, engaging and keen to listen to our Tourism-related climate concerns, while providing helpful inputs to aid us to take actions,” she says.
The course also provides a wonderful opportunity for us to be part of a network of students from around the globe. 43 people from 30 countries and five continents, have enrolled.
“I believe that I can connect with many people,” says Irene Egido, who hails from Spain but is currently living in Malta. She joined to discover more on the subject for an eco-friendly map App she plans to launch. “I am sure they will be happy to be involved in what we can bring to the future with Climate Friendly Travel, and spread the voice and the activities.”
Pratishtha agrees about the communal nature of the course.
“It feels great to be a part of the community of like-minded students learning about each other’s cultures, the climate and tourism situation,” she says.
Sharing our collective experiences we are developing a grassroots movement that is vital if the Climate Friendly Travel movement is to have a loud voice in future debates.
Another of my fellow students, Eric Nsengiyumva, has already put some of the lessons he has learned from the course into action. He has successfully persuaded two hotel owners in his native Rwanda to reduce their carbon emissions and recycle used water from 2021. His success has only fuelled his desire to take further action.
“I expect the course to give me the extra skills needed to be a change driver within travel and tourism communities, and businesses as a future climate-friendly travel leader," he says.
One initiative we are undertaking as a group is to organise the first ever Climate Friendly Travel ‘Strong Earth Youth Summit’ (SEYS), named after Maurice Strong, on 29 April 2021. We believe this will help create a cadre of climate-friendly travel champions, to ensure the Great Thunbergs of this world will have future allies within the Travel & Tourism sector.
The course is now in recess to be completed next year. I have full confidence that we will continue the momentum already established, and to provide much needed hope not just for the Travel & Tourism sector, but for the planet as a whole.
Mark Bibby Jackson is a student on the Diploma on Climate Friendly Travel run jointly by the Institute for Tourism Studies, Malta, and SUNx Malta, as well as the editor of www.travelbeginsat40.com.