2015 the hottest year on record – doesn’t make the headlines

2015 was the first full year to break the 1C barrier above pre-industrial levels – a key benchmark for warming

UK Met Office figures show that 2015 was 0.75C warmer than the long-term average between 1961-1990. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a US federal agency, 2015 is the fourth time an annual global temperature has been set this century. 2015 also saw record high temperatures for 10 months, with five months showing the highest departure from the average of any month on record.

TempGo to the graphic and watch the average temperature rise relentlessly year after year play

“There is no evidence that [the] warming trend has slowed, paused, or hiatused at any point in the last few decades.” Gavin Schmidt, Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Climate change deniers will be out in force blaming El Nino but as Prof Katharine Hayhoe, director of the climate science centre at Texas Tech University has pointed out  “The reason that 2015 has not just broken the record but has blown past it is because we are seeing a long-term temperature trend interact with the strongest El Niño of our generation. … What we have this year is the long-term rate of change with an extra spike of El Niño on top,”

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A warm and wet winter in Europe

Deserted slopes and empty ski lifts resulted in sales of ski packages in Europe slumped by 20% in December resulting in heavy discounting.

Just before Christmas Alpine ski resorts desperate to open after the warmest December on record in France. The Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise resort in Savoie used helicopters to transport 100 tonnes of snow to the slopes part of the 100,000 cubic metres of snow produced by water cannon. 120,000 people work in the French ski industry, only 40% of seasonal workers in resorts  have foudn employment this year and there are reports in the French media that in some resorts staff have accepted a 30% cut in in working time and pay.

Herve Billard of the Rhone-Alpes Federation for the Protection of Nature described the use of helicopters as an ‘ecological disaster’.

Scotland, Wales and the north-west of England all had the wettest December in more than a century producing a UK mean temperature of 8C (46F).


Times on flooding: “Whether induced by climate change or not, patterns are unmistakeable”

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Today is the Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice. 2015 is a deviant year – the  shortest day of the year traditionally falls on 21st December but it is a day later this year, the foibles of man’s calendars. Its all to do with the fact that our calendar work on 365 days, whereas the  earth’s orbit around the sun takes 365.5 days, the sun will set at 15:54 today, just under eight hours of daylight in the UK. In the Northern Hemisphere winter begins today – as I write this it is 13.3C – and last night the lowest temperature was in Faversham was 12.3C.

For an explanation of the mechanics of our bit of the universe link

Winter “ain’t what it used to be.” We’ll see what January and February bring.

I am reminded, by a friend, of the one of the alternative lyrics of Winter Wonderland

“When chapel bells are ringin’ all around

And later on we’ll conspire
As we dream by the fire
We’ll face unafraid, the plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland

Later on we’ll conspire
As we dream by the fire
We’ll face unafraid, the plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland
Yeah, we’ll face unafraid, the plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland”



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One cheer for the Paris agreement

International aviation and shipping emissions have been excluded from the Paris climate agreement

Article 31 (d) of the Paris Agreement requires parties to “provide an explanation of why any categories of anthropogenic emissions or removals are excluded.” Those who negotiated the Paris agreement should be held to account for giving aviation and marine transportation a get out of gaol free card  Effectively a “country” with the carbon emissions of the UK has secured exclusion …….

And effective action has been delayed – as Kevin Anderson explained graphically and eloquently at WTM last month we need to be reducing carbon emissions urgently now, we cannot risk waiting for cvhange by 2050, we are building up carbon pollution now and making the world a more hostile environment for us to live in.  Video

There has been some euphoria about the success of the COP21 negotiations in Paris. Obama has declared that it is “”the best chance we have to save the one planet we have”.  It could, he said, be a turning point. The language suggests that he is not sure that it will be.

I fear that he is right about that.

The outcome is certainly better than the results of Copenhagen in 2009 when negotiations ended in failure. The negotiations in Paris have secured an agreement that we should aim to curb global warming to less than 2C by 2100 and a very vague nation of endeavouring to achieve a 1.5C target – think about that in context: we’ve already warmed the earth by around 1C.

We have collectively agreed to achieve a degree of balance: to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100. Plenty of wriggle room there.

Rich countries have agree to provide “climate finance” for poorer countries for adaptation and to finance a switch to renewable energy. Will the cash transfer be on a sufficient scale? The rich countries have agreed to provide a minimum of $100bn (£67bn) per year by 2020 – as usual the commitment will bind future politicians, most of those who agreed to this will be out of office by 2020 when the Paris agreement comes into effect.   Dr Ilan Kelman of UCL has pointed out that this $100bn is “under 8% of worldwide declared military spending each year.”

There is no effective enforcement in place – there is a commitment to review each country’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions. There will be an assessment in 2018 and further reviews every five years. The setting of emissions targets and regular review is legally binding but not the targets themselves.


The Paris Agreement can be downloaded here


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Aviation gets “get out of gaol free card” in Paris

You have to admire the lobbying skills of ICAO and the IMO – aviation and marine fossil fuel emissions remain outside the draft agreement on fossil fuel emissions

Para 20 is really weak – a missed opportunity

{International transport emissions}
20. [Parties [shall][should][other] pursue the limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization, respectively, with a view to agreeing concrete measures addressing these emissions, including developing procedures for incorporating emissions from international aviation and marine bunker fuels into low-emission development strategies.]

The full document is available here.

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Q: Can Certification be counted as Responsible Tourism? A:No.

Sustainable and Responsible Tourism are not the same thing, responsibility requires transparency about what you are doing and being held to account. Certification meets neither of these criteria.

I am going visit an arid area where water shortages are serious and where the local community is often without piped potable water. Will certification enable me to choose a hotel with the best, or even a good record, in the destination. No.

I choose a Gold standard certified property. I arrive, to find the air-con on in the room down to 15°C, the TV is on to welcome me, the slot on the wall where the room key is supposed to activate the lights is overridden by a piece of cardboard. I leave my used towels carefully on the rack and return to find that they have been changed. I am offended, what remedy is open to me? How do I hold the management to account?

If I complain at the front desk or to the manager they’ll scapegoat the room attendant. I have been mis-sold but I have no legal remedy against the hotel – they did not award themselves the Gold Star – I might have a case if they falsely claim a Gold Star, or their certification is out of date. But that is generally not the issue.

The people who ought to be held to account are the certificate issuing company or NGO – but the client does not have any kind of contract with those responsible for the false claims.

So no one can be held to account for the mis-selling. Irresponsibility prevails.

First published 20150216

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There is a litmus test for Responsible Tourism… and too many people are failing it.

Responsible Tourism is not the same thing as sustainable tourism – when you see the two ideas used together, as though they are coterminous, you know immediately that Responsible Tourism is not understood, let alone being practised. Sustainability is a worthy aim, too vague to be an objective. It is also passive with no imperative for action – a vague, inoperative aspiration, often used to legitimise an investment or embellish a campaign. Green-washing is rife.

Responsible Tourism places the emphasis on identifying particular issues in particular places, our world is diverse, there is no one set of priorities. Identify the issues which matter locally, carbon pollution is the only global issue; determine what people in tourism can do about it; take action and report the reduction in negative, or increase in positive impacts. Responsible Tourism requires action and transparent reporting.

Water is not a global issue, although water is an issue in many places around the world, it is not an issue everywhere. As a consumer where water is an issue I want to be able to find the most water efficient accommodation in the destination – certification does not enable me to do that, because it hides the evidence. But worse than that, if I check into a gold rated green labelled property and find that the TV is turned on there to greet me, the room is icy (both pumping out carbon pollution) and the water flow in the shower is extravagant – there is no action I can take for redress. The hotel has made no claims, I can’t go for compensation from them, they have not mis-sold. The certification body has mis-sold but I have not made a contractual relationship with them, they have provided a high quality and secure fig leaf.

The are many excellent examples of people taking responsibility on travel and tourism, people who go the extra miles to deliver products which are more responsible than they were a year or two ago and far more sustainable than their competitors – we see them every year in the World Responsible Tourism Awards presented at World Travel Market (WTM).

Responsible Tourism is about actively taking responsibility; it is about what you do. You demonstrate what you do by transparently reporting your impacts – aspirations and ‘feel good’ language is no longer enough. This year we need to redouble our efforts, to take responsibility and challenge those who either make no contribution to making our world a better place to live in or damage it. We need to put more effort into identifying and calling out irresponsibility.

Harold Goodwin’s most recent book is Taking Responsibility for Tourism www.haroldgoodwin.info.

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Orphanage Tourism is worse than many of us thought

Funding, donating to or visiting orphanages is fraught with real risks of unintended consequences, reputational damage and the funding of those with evil intent.

I have just spent two days at a Better Volunteering, Better Care “inter-agency workshop” addressing the  question  “within the field of child rights how might we redirect the efforts from orphanage “visits” to ethical alternatives that have positive outcomes?

The campaign against orphanage volunteering by responsibletravel.com which was sparked by the panel on Responsible Volunteering at WTM in 2012 when the issue was raised again by Michael Horton, Chairman and Founder of Cambodia based ConCERT. Watch the video

In Nepal there are 800 registered orphanages holding 15,000 children, two thirds of whom are NOT orphans. 90% of orphanages are in 5 districts, those which are visited by tourists – there are 75 districts in Nepal,  90% of the orphanages are in just 5 of them. Demand for visits to, and volunteering in, orphanages, creates supply.

People in the industry need to think hard about their role in creating the incentives for the unscrupulous to develop orphanages and make orphans. Families are often tricked into allowing their children go to what they are told is a good boarding school –when they try to visit what is in fact an orphanage they are turned away – parents are denied access to their children.

Martin Punkas of Next Generation Nepal talked about the work they are doing to liberate trafficked children from orphanages

Next Generation Nepal (NGN), assisted in the rescue of 18 malnourished children from an exploitative children’s home. All 18 children had to sleep in one small filthy room, sometimes with no more than a bowl of popcorn for a meal. The home did not have enough water to wash the children and its one toilet was not cleaned for weeks. The youngest child is 2 years old.

The 18 children were released from the home near Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, on November 10 at 6:43 p.m. All children were brought to the safety of the NGN-funded transitional home that same evening. One 13-year-old boy was immediately hospitalized with chronic malnutrition. – Read more

The Forget Me Not Children’s Home had an ethical framework that the donor applied, they did their due diligence, and they tried to exercise supervision. The donors had the wool pulled over their eyes for several years by the local committee which ran the centre. Donors visited two or three times a year and spent time at the orphanage – the children were threatened that they would be hurt if they spoke out.

Next Generation Nepal advised and supported Forget Me Not in the rescue of the children from the orphanage which they had previously funded. The rescue itself was led by a remarkable American woman called Eva Capozzola. In partnership with NGN, Forget Me Not went on to ensure the reunification of most of the girls with their families

The donor was tricked; despite making every effort to ensure that they were doing good, they funded bad. They’ve now switched to supporting family care.

In Cambodia, less than a quarter of children in orphanages are actual orphans. The New York Times has just this week published on Scam Orphanages in Cambodia

A government study conducted five years ago found that 77 percent of children living in Cambodia’s orphanages had at least one parent.

The empathy of foreigners — who not only deliver contributions, but also sometimes open their own institutions — helped create a glut of orphanages, according to aid workers, and the government says they now house more than 11,000 children. Although some of the orphanages are clean and well-managed, many are decrepit and, according to the United Nations, leave children susceptible to sexual abuse.

 “The number of orphans has been going down and the number of orphanages going up,” said Sarah Chhin, who helps run an organization that encourages children in orphanages who have families to return home. “We are forever having people say, ‘I’ve come to Cambodia because I want to open an orphanage.’ ”

Read more  there is also a video:

Funding, donating to or visiting orphanages is fraught with real risks of unintended consequences, reputational damage and the funding of those with evil intent.eP1010257


The workshop started the development of  ethical alternatives to orphanage tourism that have positive outcomes – they may be ready to be launched at WTM in November.

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Is TripAdvisor’s GreenLeader Scheme a game changer? Yes and No.

Yes – because it offers a way in which businesses confident in their green credentials can reach a broader consumer market.

No for four important reasons:

  1. You need to be very confident as a business to make explicit statements about you green credentials if you are to risk claims for refunds by consumers who feel you’ve not delivered as promised. Being identified on TripAdvisor as having made claims which cannot be substantiated will be painful. Any business which is fingered for false claims by a consumer on TripAdvisor will be expected to deliver a paper trail which demonstrates the veracity of their claims. Surely the best way that a business can substantiate its claims and defend itself, in the small claims court or to TripAdvisor, will be through independent audit, provided by flagship programmes like Travelife and GTBS – both based in the UK and the leading international exemplars of best practice in certification.
  2. It is not just about the green agenda – there is more to Responsible Tourism and sustainability than that – the social and economic issues matter at least as much, and to many consumers more. Travelife and GTBS both address the broader agenda.
  3. Travelife and GTBS are both successful programmes, they both have recognition in the market place – it will be good to see businesses making more of the their graded and certified status on TripAdvisor – one of the ways to benefit from Travelife and GTBS will be to get it mentioned on TripAdvisor. Travelife brings recognition from the tour operators – a TripAdvisor rating will not carry weight with them
  4. The most important part of the audit carried out by established programmes like Travelife and GTBS is the process of preparing for the visit and the learning that comes from it.

So two cheers for TripAdvisor’s Greenleaders, and three cheers for the credible certification and grading programmes; TripAdvisor will help raise awareness amongst consumers and provide an additional means for certificated and graded businesses to communicate their achievement. I see TripAdvisor as an additional opportunity for businesses graded by credible established programmes like Travelife and GTBS to gain recognition with consumers and to have the confidence to talk about their achievements.  

I asked whether TripAdvisor’s Greenleaders programme was a game changer on the WTM WRTD blog site. Here

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Cruise liners banned from Venice and then unbanned …

Back in January large cruise liners were banned from Venice’s canals because they were eroding the waterways and damaging the ecosystem with 600 cruise ships reported to have passed St Mark’s church in 2012. more 

In November it was announced that from January 2014, the number of cruise ships allowed through Venice will be cut by 20%, and from November 2014 ships of more than 96,000 tonnes will be banned from its centre. more

Now the administration court in Venice has accepted an appeal by lobbyists, including the port. They have suspended the ban, pending a review in June,  because of ‘the absence of any practical alternative navigation routes’. The judges ruled that there was ‘not sufficient preliminary research identifying risks connected to transits of ships over 40,000 tonnes in the canals in question’.

Further evidence that managing destinations is complex.




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Harold Goodwin