Travel and tourism (‘travelism’) in the low-carbon economy : the role of public policy in accelerating decarbonisation over the next four decades

Vorster, Shaun (2012-12)


ENGLISH ABTRACT: This study considers the policy options for the accelerated decarbonisation of travel and tourism (or ‘travelism’) over the next four decades. The concept of ‘travelism’ approaches aviation, travel and tourism as an integrated value chain. The value chain’s carbon footprint and possible mitigation options (or ‘wedges’) are analysed through the lenses of the three pillars of sustainable development (i.e. social, environmental and economic values), which represent the core of a conceptual model for green, low-carbon travelism growth. This model provides a systems perspective on the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the envisioned low-carbon transformation. Travelism is both a vector and victim of climate change, and simultaneously makes a significant economic and social contribution to society at large. ‘Doing nothing’ to face up to the challenges of climate change is therefore not an option, nor is the ‘slowing down’ of travelism demand. Yet, the approaching clash of trajectories between business-as-usual travelism growth and climate stabilisation goals provides strong motivation for ‘decoupling’ (i.e. decarbonising travelism). Travelism has to contribute its fair share to keeping global temperature increase to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, while allowing development to proceed sustainably. Consequently, mitigation ‘wedges’ are identified for three travelism sub-clusters with quantifiable carbon footprints (i.e. accommodation, land transport and air transport). A combination of public policy approaches (i.e. information-based, incentive-based and directive-based) are identified that can help to overcome implementation barriers for those cost-efficient mitigation options with significant carbon abatement potential and other sustainable-development co-benefits. In the accommodation cluster, green building design, energy-efficiency measures and renewable-energy deployment are priorities. In the land transport cluster, passenger modal shifts, more efficient vehicles and low-carbon fuels as well as improved public transport in ‘green cities’ represent the most promising mitigation options. In both these clusters, integrated planning and alignment with other policy domains, best-practice sharing, consumer education, vertical supply chain partnerships and a mix of government incentives and regulatory standards are required. In the air transport cluster, mitigation options related to operational, infrastructural and technology-driven efficiency improvements represent the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for the next two decades. However, once this emissions reduction potential has been optimised, only two (known) game changers remain: firstly, the development and commercialisation of secondgeneration (i.e. sustainable) drop-in biofuels as substitute for high-carbon kerosene jet fuel, and, secondly, the introduction of a market-based mechanism (MBM). Based on the analysis of the technical and financial feasibility, sustainability and scalability of the biofuels mitigation wedge, it is concluded that there is no either/or choice between drop-in biofuels and MBMs. A risk management approach requires pursuance of both. Creating a global aviation biofuels industry will be no small endeavour, though. It will require a package of public policies, funding and partnerships at various stages of the technology life cycle and throughout a long value chain. Besides carbon abatement, local economic development and job creation co-benefits in developing and emerging economies are also achievable. An MBM for aviation emissions should ideally be designed as a global, ‘open’ emissions-trading scheme that (i) provides a progressive price incentive for the uptake of sustainable biofuels as well as pursuance of the other mitigation options, and (ii) creates flexibility for the aviation sector to offset its unavoidable emissions with lower-cost emissions reductions from other economic sectors.

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