Today, on World Earth Day, get to know how one of the leading tourism companies in Ecuador contributes along with us to take care of the planet through its Carbon Neutral strategy.
Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ and exacerbates many of the already existing threats to water, biodiversity and livelihoods of the Tropical Andean communities. This global phenomenon increases the intensity, frequency and risk of the occurrence of threats such as natural resource degradation. Climate impacts can cause ecosystems, which already suffer from prejudicial human activity, to exceed their inflection point, destroying their capacity to provide services such as safe and continuous access to water, food and energy. Ecosystem management with respect to climate will ultimately determine whether a community, a business or an ecosystem can survive and thrive or not. Additionally, climate change will intensify the migration of species outside the existing private reserves and national parks. In response to this global challenge, today June 5th, on World Earth Day, we share our work on carbon footprint management as part of Fundación Futuro’s strategies to support the carbon neutrality process of the Futuro Group companies.
Carbon neutral is a term that conveys the idea that the carbon emissions generated by a company as an outcome of its operations are 100% compensated for, that is to say, that they are equivalent to zero. This is precisely the great achievement we have accomplished with Metropolitan Touring and one we seek to attain with other companies of the Futuro Group. According to Felipe Andrade, our Carbon and Biodiversity Management Coordinator: “Our challenge begins with the reduction of carbon emissions, so first we advise companies on the implementation of mechanisms that reduce their CO2 production. The second is to capture the carbon footprint”. This implies that, through conservation programs, we capture the carbon emissions that the companies’ operations inevitably produce.
Photograph: Carbon capture area in the Andean Chocó
With Metropolitan Touring, this job began through an important effort to understand the impact of its industry’s operations in the environment. We discovered that tourism generates 8% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide according to a study published by Sidney University, becoming one of the most highly contaminant industries in the world. This is because, over the past 10 years, the movement of people has become more dynamic due to tourism. This movement has automatically increased hotel presence, land and air transport, as well as the supply of services; and with it, CO2 emissions. As Francisco Dousdebés, Metropolitan Touring’s Product Manager, explains:
“When we see an industry, like oil, with its chimneys blowing off gases, the contamination is evident. On the other hand, CO2 emissions from tourism are masked in landscapes. It would seem that tourism does not generate CO2, but the truth is that tourism is a series of concatenated services. Each service leaves its own footprint, so the measurement of CO2 is complex.”
Fortunately, understanding this reality has allowed Metropolitan Touring and Fundación Futuro to take action on the matter. Part of our work focuses on reducing CO2 emissions. In a first phase, Metropolitan Touring installed solar panels on its office’s roofs, which generate 20% of the building’s energy requirements and will cover 40% in the future. On the other hand, Metropolitan Touring invests an important amount of resources to optimize the fuels used by its ships in Galápagos. Special additives and filters are used to improve the quality of diesel for more efficient combustion. Additionally, a series of internal campaigns aimed at motivating employees to lower their energy and water consumption, as well as to recycle, have been implemented. All these actions have achieved a 5% annual reduction of CO2 emissions. This is a huge achievement for Metropolitan Touring, considering that the CO2 growth of the tourism industry is 3.3% per year.
Photograph: Metropolitan Touring Fleet from its fuel optimization program
Our second major challenge together with Metropolitan Touring was to implement carbon sequestration programs with the objective of achieving a neutral carbon certification. The process begins with the measurement of the company’s operations to be translated into an amount in carbon tons. These values are added each year to determine the footprint generated. Then, Metropolitan Touring pays a value per carbon ton to Fundación Futuro, who is responsible for capturing these emissions in the forests. To ensure that the amount of carbon sequestered is equivalent to the amount of carbon generated by Metropolitan Touring, we recurrently measure the forests’ CO2 capturing capacity. Felipe Andrade is in charge of this process and explains that:
“Through photosynthesis, trees incorporate carbon into their structure. Then, all the carbon they capture is transformed into structural molecules in their roots, trunks and leaves. The variation in the amount of plant material from one year to the next represents the amount of sequestered carbon.”
Photograph: Conservation work in the Andean Chocó
Promoting carbon neutrality or a zero carbon footprint is our local action to mitigate climate change globally. The consequences of climate change over the decades can be observed both in tropical countries as in the rest of the world, in coastal locations, in glaciers and in all types of ecosystems. The seriousness of this impact for Ecuador lies in the fact that by being a megadiverse country with a high level of endemism, climate change can be devastating for unique ecosystems, for the subsistence of communities and for the national economy in general. For this reason, the actions that we carry out from Fundación Futuro and Metropolitan Touring mark a very important milestone in terms of the hard work that must be done in Ecuador to conserve the incredible natural riches that make it a tourist power.
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