Tourism sector key to green economy

The tourism sector in Samoa might hold the keys to developing a green economy with decent work, says a climate policy officer.

As the impacts of climate change become more apparent, investment into quality, environmental jobs is coming into focus.

Steven Turnbull works in the environment unit of the department of foreign affairs and trade in Australia and is in Samoa as a policy expert for a knowledge sharing workshop between 11 Pacific nations (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu).

He said tourism in the Pacific might be a good place to start, especially with attractions like eco-friendly resorts.

“Tourists here will pay a premium for that kind of resort, and that money can be used to fund infrastructure that otherwise might not happen,” he said.

“The tourism sector in a lot of places like the Pacific can be seen as a cause of emissions and the like, especially with things like air conditioners.”

According to a May 2018 study, tourism accounted for 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions between 2009 and 2013 and that number will continue to rise if left unchecked.

The study, the carbon footprint of global tourism was the first international attempt to measure tourism’s carbon footprint and included flights, souvenirs and food in the research.

 While Samoa’s impact on that 8 per cent may be small, the sector would do well to capitalise on the consumer desire for eco-friendly attractions.

Thanks to their geographic size and population, Pacific states are well placed to pilot greener industries.

“It’s interesting in the Pacific context with smaller economies and smaller industries because there is a real chance to be a pilot case, or be more agile and innovative.

“It’s easier where everyone knows each other and the business sector is manageable that you can start to get your messaged shared if that is your goal from the ground up,” he said.

Ultimately, what is important is that climate change policies and practices have “buy-in” from all sides, said Mr Turnbull.

“More than the policy itself is the process of having community buy-in, knowing locally what will work rather than having someone come in with the next great idea.

“We always say there is no one size that fits all, but it really is the case,” he said.

Understanding the economy, resources and needs in the country is essential to applying meaningful climate change policies.

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