It is well documented that the tourism industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions which are a major part of the climate emergency. As a tourism business – especially one working in Mongolia, a country where a majority of our guests have no option but to fly to – we have a moral responsibility to make sure the way we work is as sustainable as possible. However, this is more than just the tick-box of carbon offsetting. It has to be more than just planting a token tree or offsetting a tonne of carbon. We will be offsetting but offsets detract from the real issue of necessary reductions and so our focus has to be about reducing and managing our carbon footprint. It’s a long road with no definitive answers but below are the achievable steps we are taking to reduce our emissions.
Reducing Our Impacts
The first step was to declare a climate emergency. That’s why we signed up to Tourism Declares A Tourism Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism businesses, organisations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions.
Jess is creating an environmental management plan and climate action plan with the help of postgraduate students on the Responsible Tourism Management Postgraduate Course of Leeds Beckett University in the UK – the only responsible tourism management MSc certified by the UNWTO.
Step Three As part of our Sustainable Tourism Strategy we are already focusing on eight key points
- Women’s Development
- Local education
- Community Partnerships
- Local project support
- Impact of flying
However, we need to make the carbon costs of our holiday as transparent as possible. It’s not just about reducing the amount we fly. And as part of auditing our carbon footprint we will be doing the following:
- Developing a carbon management strategy including setting emission reduction targets
- Measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of our Mongolia experiences – looking at ways we can create trips with lower carbon footprints including the main sources of emissions: transport, accommodation, waste and food.
- Looking at ways we can lower the carbon footprint of our office in Ulaanbaatar including the internet browser we use, electricity, use of natural and bottled gas, water consumption, domestic and international flights, use of tour vehicles and waste paper.
As part of our environmental management plan and climate action plan, we will be working with C-Level to measure our carbon footprint. C-Level are a B Corp Certified business with the single purpose of working with individuals and businesses to achieve carbon level impact through the combined natural powers of both ecosystems and communities. They are also corporate members of 1% For The Planet, meaning they give 1% of their turnover to 1% member charities.
A Mongolian Carbon Offset Project
Carbon offsetting is not the answer to fixing the climate emergency. But, offsetting is part of our wider environmental management and climate action plans and helps us to take responsibility for our current carbon footprint.
We wanted a high standard offsetting project local to Mongolia where the local community had a positive say in the scheme and its impact. That’s what led us to C-Level as they support the only carbon project in Mongolia. The Pastures, Conservation and Climate Action Project (known also as the Mongolian Nomad Project) is managed by the Mongolian Pastureland Management Association (see below for an introduction). It’s the first project of its kind in Mongolia – restoring traditional nomadic practices to enable ecosystem recovery and carbon uptake. It is an independently verified project that takes carbon out of the earth’s atmosphere using the natural powers of local communities.
Using C-Level we will be balancing our CO2 emissions by investing in Plan Vivo Certificates – environmental service certificates, each representing the reduction or avoidance of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide. The Mongolian Nomad Project we invest in through our carbon offsetting is of Plan Vivo Standard – based on ethical principles intended to deliver long-term climate, livelihoods and biodiversity benefits.
The Mongolian Nomad Project
The Mongolian Nomad Project is the first its kind project restoring traditional nomadic practices to enable ecosystem recovery and carbon uptake. The project focuses on creating performance-based payments to herder families based on changes they are able to make which impact positively on carbon levels. Much of this is about restoring the traditional nomadic way of life to reduce overgrazing pressure and degradation on fragile ecosystems.
The project covers 70,000 hectares of land taking place in three different regions of Mongolia – Tov and Arkhangai Aimags in the central heartland and Bayankhongor – one of the Gobi provinces. The project has a direct benefit to 4 key grassland habitats: riparian meadow, mountain meadow, mountain steppe and steppe within the three regions.
174 herding families are involved and benefit. The herding families are being financially compensated for protecting their local environment simply by adhering to traditional nomadic principles. One example is that by pooling resources and skills, and with access to micro-loans the herders are able to sell finished products rather than raw materials, and fetch higher prices. This is working well for processing and creating from animal skins.
The herders also undertake biodiversity surveys across their pasturelands. They are also patrolling forested areas to prevent the cutting of trees and working together to stop illegal hunting as well as planting indigenous trees to reduce demands on existing woodland.