Tourism to Antarctica is booming, as is evident from the number of visitors and ships bringing the former to the southern polar region. But often, when discussing tourism there, the argument is made that exactly this type of transportation, namely by ships and airplanes, plus the use of inflatable boats and helicopters to bring the numerous tourists to the remote landing sites, have great negative environmental impacts. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) now wants to ensure even more sustainability and environmental safety with a new climate strategy for Antarctic tourism and is taking a first major step.
Members of the Association will submit their fuel consumption facts and figures for all their means of transport to the IAATO Secretariat this coming Antarctic season. These include consumption details of ships, airplanes, zodiacs (inflatable boats), helicopters, cars and all other means of transport used for tourist activities during the season. The information will be used to determine the greenhouse gas footprint of IAATO activities in Antarctica, with a view to then taking internal action to monitor and refine IAATO emissions targets as a next step. This was announced by the association in a press release.
The ultimate goal of this measure is to adjust the emissions of greenhouse gases and subsequently also of particles in accordance with the target of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). For example, by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced to 50 percent of 2008 levels (a peak in the history of Antarctic tourism). And at the global level, the goal is to achieve net zero before 2050. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), net zero means that emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere caused by humans are offset by removals also undertaken by humans over a specified period of time. To achieve these goals, IAATO members will also formulate and implement their own climate strategies and targets. All this was unanimously agreed at the last IAATO meeting in April in Providence, USA.
The industry, like almost all branches in which transportation is important, faces a difficult future. On the one hand, the IAATO faces major challenges in terms of fuel and sustainability; on the other hand, however, it wants to remain proactive and equipped for the future. For IAATO members, therefore, collecting and sharing fuel data with the secretariat is a big and important step and achieving the goals of the new climate strategy is of great importance. According to the head of the IAATO’s Climate Change Committee, Pam Le Noury, “This latest commitment by our Operators to submit their fuel data to the IAATO Secretariat for analysis, means that once we have acceleration in the development of sustainable fuels and other technologies, we will be in a strong position to act to reduce emissions further.”
The issue around greater sustainability and environmental safety has long had its place in industry. This is because IAATO has been advocating for these issues in Antarctic tourism since it was founded in 1991. And in recent years, the industry has made great strides forward, especially in building newer and more powerful ships, thanks in no small part to the development of new materials and technologies and the implementation of the Polar Code. In the past, mainly the very ice-going Russian ships were used to bring guests closer to Antarctica. But over the years, on the one hand, the demand of passengers and, at the same time, that of many IAATO members to become even more involved in the issues of sustainability and the effects of climate change and to remain proactive has increased. Subsequently, these aspects have been actively incorporated and implemented in the construction of new vessels by IAATO members. These aspects and issues have also been and continue to be increasingly weighted in operations in Antarctica. Amanda Lynnes, head of the Environment and Science Coordination Unit at IAATO, says: “One of IAATO’s strengths is the ability of its diverse membership to take collective action, often over and above what is required by global regulators. Our members remain agile in response to emerging technologies and global recommendations surrounding climate change and are committed to taking powerful steps to act for Antarctica.”
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
More on the topic