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Should the Tourism Sector ‘reap’ from Zimbabwe’s low carbon pathways?


By Tendai Guvamombe

It has emerged that tourism sector in the country and across the globe is the major source of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions largely because of the nature behind operations in the hospitality sector ranging from energy and water consumption, heating and cooling, lighting, cooking and waste management.

Statistics obtained from the CarbonBrief published study , indicate that tourism is responsible for 8 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions thereby threatening the need to achieve the highly ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement.

In addition, recent studies have also affirmed that tourism’s annual global carbon footprints increased from 3.9 to 4.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The findings were probably informed by the increased tourism growth projected from the data obtained from 160 countries.

In response to the unprecedented scenarios, the World Tourism Organization(WTO) decreed the need for the tourism industry and national governments to consent in reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent of its 2020 levels in line with the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP).

Zimbabwe’s National Dialogue on Eco-Tourism and Energy Conference recently held in Victoria Falls became a turning point for the tourism sector to strategically shift towards enhancement of green pathways in which sustainability is prime.

In this regard, the Zimbabwe’s Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) which is yet to be launched presents a number of mitigation opportunities for the the sector.

Tourism as an energy using sector has the potential to tap into solar pumping for irrigation, off grid solar electrification, energy efficient lighting, rooftop solar, minimum energy performance standards, solar led street lighting, solar water heaters, energy efficiency programme , renewable energy, electric motors and vehicles and solid waste management programme.

According to Isaac Chiridza Principal Energy Development Officer Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Department in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development said the sector stands a chance to leverage from environmental efficiency, utility system benefits and risk management. Renewable energy mainly solar inevitably fosters democratization of power supply which will be off grid.

“Environmentally, Increased efficiency can lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants, as well as decrease in water usage. This will entail reduced water bills and long life to pumps used for pumping water. Economically, Improving energy efficiency can lower energy utility bills in the energy sector. There are Utility System Benefits: Energy efficiency can provide long-term benefits by lowering overall electricity demand, thus reducing the need to invest in new electricity generation and transmission infrastructure. Considering that our supply is constraint the saved energy can then be supplied to other sectors of the economy.”

“Risk Management: Energy efficiency also helps diversify utility resource portfolios and can be a hedge against uncertainty associated with fluctuating fuel prices. Also assist in building reliable and democratic sources of energy without much dependence on the national utility. This will also make tourism industry a net exporter of power into the grid as well (prosumers).”

It has been projected that total emissions in the energy sector are expected to increase significantly over the coming decades, rising to around 26.5 and 37.5 metric tonnes of Carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030 and 2050, respectively.

This will be addressed in the implementation of the country’s low emissions development strategy(LEDS) and it is also a point of reference in informing GHG emissions reduction in the tourism sector among other sectors.

This will also be key in ensuring measurement reporting and verification(MRV) on emissions data profile under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Transparency Framework which mandates countries to constantly report on their specific GHG emissions reduction.

Capacity building for players in the tourism sector informs a successful MRV Framework on data capture and collection on emissions profile from the sector and this will directly feeds into the nationally determined contributions on climate change(NDCs) update.

Lawrence Mashungu, Climate Change Mitigation Expert in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry under the Climate Change Management Department said Eco Tourism is relevant in ensuring a successful contribution in the NDCs reviewing processes inline with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

“The Sustainable Tourism itself will be part of our emissions profiling and the need to capacitate experts in the same sector will provide a baseline for the enhanced Measurement, Reporting and Verification(MRV) Framework which is a special requirement with regards to the NDCs revision processes and our Biennual update and National Communications to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

As the tourism sector is showing signs for a potential growth, huge interests will point towards investments in hotel lodgings were tourists will be now aware and considering environmental protection, waste treatment measures, energy efficiency, renewable energy and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Eco friendly hotels will in the future become a sign of progression towards achieving success stories of a green economy in which sustainable tourism will be key.

Tendai Guvamombe
the authorTendai Guvamombe