On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to allow the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement. The long-term ramifications of this decision could help save the places and people travelers cherish.

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P.Resident Joe Biden wasted no time. On January 20, his first day at work, the newly elected president signed one Executive action United States reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement, the largest global effort to curb climate change.

In doing so, he reversed President Donald Trump’s exit from the international agreement in 2020. But the withdrawal of the withdrawal decision must be tied to action to make it meaningful in the race to contain global warming and its potentially devastating effects on the planet.

On April 22nd, Biden stated what some of these measures will be. The President hosted a Leaders Summit on Climate, at which he announced that the United States will commit to a new goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 50 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

“In recent years, climate change has turned the lives of millions of Americans upside down,” said the president in an Earth Day speech.

Biden noted that climate change has resulted in more than 22 catastrophic weather events in the past year, including the Texas winter storm that killed 111 people and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, storms and severe droughts.

Gregory Miller, executive director of Responsible Travel Center (CREST), welcomed the President’s renewed commitment to the cause. “The climate crisis is the number one existential threat that we face as individuals, communities, businesses, and as a travel and tourism sector. A sustainable future for tourism will not be possible without the US as a pioneer in overcoming the climate crisis, ”he told AFAR.

The country’s return to the Paris Agreement and Biden’s new commitments “send a message to other countries and businesses that protecting the climate must be a priority,” said Dr. Susanne Etti, environmental impact expert at Intrepid Travel, a global tour operator that went carbon neutral in 2010.

“More importantly, this action also shows the terrible news for humanity that our planet will have disastrous consequences if we do not move forward to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In response, I believe that many people and companies are re-evaluating and thinking about how they can reduce their CO2 emissions, large or small, in order to prevent a worst-case climate crisis, ”said Etti.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement and why is it important?

Signed by 196 parties in 2015 (including the United States) who Paris Agreement came into force in November 2016 and is a legally binding international climate treaty. Its main goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, although ideally global warming would be limited to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

In order to achieve this ambitious climate target, the participating countries will be held accountable by submitting concrete plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of a “climate-neutral world by the middle of the century”. Accountability is one of the most important factors in the contract. The signatories have committed to reporting on the climate protection measures they have implemented and the progress made in mitigating climate change.

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By rejoining the alliance, the United States pledges to drastically reduce climate pollution and transparently monitor, report and increase climate targets, Etti said.

What are the consequences if the goals of the Paris Agreement are not achieved?

What’s a fraction of a degree here or there? Why the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Quite simply: “Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the number of people who are frequently exposed to extreme heat waves by about 420 million, with about 65 million fewer people being exposed to extraordinary heat waves,” wrote Alan Buis in one June 2019 NASA report on global climate change.

It would also significantly reduce the likelihood of droughts, torrential rain, floods, fires, and the rate of sea level rise. Fewer species would be endangered or threatened with extinction, and there will be fewer shifts in entire biomes, such as ecosystems turning into arid and arid deserts. Rising sea temperatures would also be limited, which would have less of an impact on the oceans and marine life. And agriculture and crop yields will be less at risk.

The report points to events such as the extreme heat wave in Europe in the summer of 2006, which could become more frequent if the Paris climate targets are not met, and the deadly 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan, which could occur annually.

These events often have devastating effects while traveling. They often thwart travelers’ plans, can strand travelers involuntarily, and alter and damage the places and landscapes travelers want to visit.

Buis also concluded that climate-related risks are higher for disadvantaged people and communities in general, which was highlighted by Biden in his April 22 speech.

“Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and other color communities are still hardest hit by the effects of climate change,” said Biden. “They carry the highest levels of pollution, face higher levels of heart and lung diseases, and have the least safe drinking water in their homes.”

The United States has “an obligation to correct these historical mistakes and build a future in which all people have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, healthy communities to live, work and learn in, and a meaningful voice in their future, ”said Biden.

The many changes Biden’s travel agenda will bring include greater investments in climate-friendly rail networks and the manufacture of more electric vehicles. The president also seeks to protect and restore many of the country’s natural resources, including the forests, wetlands, coastal and marine environments that travelers appreciate.

What should travel companies do to join the fight against climate change?

Proponents of sustainable travel see the US’s new position on climate change as an opportunity to embrace change.

Intrepid Travel’s Etti believes that now is the time for the travel industry to surpass past goals. “The travel industry, which has contributed to around 8 percent of the prepandemic of CO2 emissions, must take sensible measures to decarbonise the entire value chain,” she said. “Carbon offsetting is not the solution for the travel industry – we have to reduce CO2 emissions.”

Transportation services, a large part of travel infrastructure, including airlines, trains, ships, and automobiles, are available increasingly invest in CO2 compensation and CO2 reduction programs.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the aviation industry to commit to a net reduction in CO2 emissions from aviation of 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, a goal that United Airlines claims it would meet.

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These goals are important, Miller said, because the way forward is not not not to travel, but to travel better. For him, the advantages outweigh the possible disadvantages when the travel is done well.

“While the focus on greenhouse gas emissions from air travel is deserved, the responsible traveler must keep an eye on greenhouse gases and tourism in a climate crisis,” said Miller. “Yes, we absolutely have to reduce the use of air travel, but we must also not forget that responsible, sustainable travel makes a significant contribution to the experience-based economy of over 125 countries and more than 80 percent of the world’s developing countries depend on it.” tourism for the exchange of hard currencies. “

Instead, Miller proposed a travel and tourism industry that is simply committed to getting better through the communities and environments it engages with.

In June 2020, CREST teamed up with five sustainable travel organizations to create a Future of tourism Coalition that formed 13 principles for travel companies who want to be better stewards of the planet. This includes ideas such as protecting natural ecosystems and cultural assets; demand a fair distribution of income; Choose quality over quantity; Reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and the renouncement of plastic.

More than 500 companies have signed in the coalitionincluding hotels, resorts and tour operators. Signatories are Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Hilton, Lindblad Expeditions, the Travel Corporation and others.

How can travelers help in the climate change effort?

As we begin to overcome the great travel break caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the United States embarks on an aggressive new climate agenda, this is an opportunity for travelers who want to travel the world more responsibly to do so with even greater purpose.

“The past year has seen a great reorientation of travel and one of the positive results has been an awakening to our greater responsibility for one another and for the planet,” said Jessica Hall Upchurch, vice chairwoman and sustainability strategist for virtuoso, a global network of luxury travel specialists.

Hall Upchurch found that the mindset of travelers has shifted from a sense of “someone should do something” to “I can and should do something,” a shift that “drives people to make different choices in their future travels when they may have just done “. over a year ago. “

In a recent survey of 250 travelers, Virtuoso found that 82 percent would like to travel more responsibly in the future after the pandemic is behind us. The majority (72 percent) said sustainable travel should support local communities and economies, preserve a destination’s cultural heritage, and protect the planet. They also want to use their dollars to help the planet. More than half (78 percent) of the respondents said that it is very or rather important to them to choose a hotel, cruise line or travel company with a strong sustainability policy. Miller cited Intrepid Travel and the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba as examples of such companies.

Ultimately, 70 percent are of the opinion that travel enriches the holiday experience in the long term.

To do this, “It is vitally important for the responsible traveler to ask questions, research a resort operator, and make sure they demonstrate their commitment to sustainability – not just removing the plastic shampoo or not changing sheets, which of course is good, but they are committed to their footprint, the surrounding community and the more holistic approach to sustainability, ”advised Miller.

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