From planning to action – applying a justice lens to tourism

Our series of webinars, organised around the COP28 Climate Conference, aimed to shine a light on the importance of climate action in tourism. The first webinar looked at climate justice in tourism. Here are our key takeaways from the session.

The meaning of climate justice and inclusion within tourism

Justice is seen as an ethical idea or norm of fairness, often referring to fair or equal distributions of costs and benefits, rights and responsibilities. Social justice looks at the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society, and climate justice is understood as an inclusive approach to climate action, which really centres on those who are most vulnerable to climate change. 

Climate justice should interweave environmental justice and social justice and put affected communities at the centre. Climate injustice looks at climate-related decisions and actions and inactions that negatively impact those least responsible and often most vulnerable.  Inclusion is thought of as the processes and procedures that organizations may use to help ensure all types of diverse people are accepted and can feel a sense of belonging, appreciation, and agency to be able to share what their experiences are, and their ideas and solutions. 

Tourism can exacerbate inequality and contribute to injustice

Luxurious hotels and tourists often remain unaffected by climate-related issues. For example, In Mombasa, flooding had no impact on hotels, while local residents faced chaos because they did not have the right infrastructure, capacity and funds to manage flooding, like hotels do. Tourism-driven infrastructure development may also disadvantage local communities. When tourism is thriving in a destination, it tends to dictate the infrastructure and economic dynamics of a place along with any policy changes. Resource competition can lead to scarcity for residents and negative effects on both people and nature. For example, the lion’s share of resource allocation goes to the luxury hotel rather than the struggling local community, fish gets sold to hotels for a higher price, meaning local people cannot afford it anymore. 

Progressive policies are necessary for communities to have rightful access to and benefits from natural resources

Benefit sharing models and progressive policies are needed where custodians benefit from resource protection. Local people need to be empowered to manage their own resources rather than being denied access to them. The current system disables access, and local people may still end up responsible for or affected by negative changes. For policies to be effective, much more data and information are needed, as there currently is a widespread lack of knowledge about climate impacts, policies, and benefits.

Policies must also be inclusive and/or and relevant for local communities 

Exclusion from climate discussions perpetuates a significant injustice. A lot of interventions are elitist and many SMEs are not included or do not benefit. If climate action does not speak to people’s livelihoods, even that becomes an injustice. Climate policies also need to be presented in a way that resonates with local communities using understandable language. Knowledge and dissemination can be a barrier, with people being excluded because of how knowledge is communicated. Local people must be empowered and part of policy-making decisions.

Watch the webinar:

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