It is undoubted that building and developing carbon-neutral tourism cannot be achieved easily within short term; however, it is not impossible either if destinations have serious investment and comprehensive approach. The Towards Carbon Neutral Tourism in Montenegro project is a prime example of how the right strategies can make a country become a carbon neutral destination.
Montennegro is a small country located on the Adriatic coast, on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. This country has an unique natural landscape and diverse cultures. Montenegro has 300km of beautiful coastline and 60km of beaches, mountainous landscapes, primeval forests, national parks and many historical and cultural sites. It is a rich and valuable tourism resource. With these advantages, Montenegro has become an attractive destination for tourists and also attracts a lot investments in tourism.
In 2012, Montenegro welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors, more than twice the population of the country and 10 times more than 10 years ago. The outstanding growth of the tourism sector at that time in Montenegro is expected to continue to grow strongly in the long term. It was forecast that by 2023, the number of tourist arrivals to Montenegro would reach 3 million (according to WTTC). In addition, the Tourism & Travel industry would contribute 34.4% to the total GDP, with investment capital in the tourism industry also is forecast to reach 49.6% of total investment by 2023.
However, because of the potential to become the main driver of economic growth and investment of Montenegro in the future, the tourism industry is also expected to impact heavily on the environment. The increase in construction activities for tourism infrastructure, cruise, transportation, accommodation, and other tourism-related activities would potentially lead to an large amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment. Montenegro’s greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 40% by 2020 from the 1990 baseline. In addition, many other risks are also mentioned such as the doubling of waste from tourism and the indirect impacts of climate change caused by tourism.
In view of the development potential of tourism with its risks of affecting the climate, environment, and national communities, the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro has partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to launch a strategic and long-term project aimed at developing carbon-neutral tourism in Montenegro.
Towards Carbon Neutral Tourism in Montenegro project
The project is designed to be implemented from August 2014 to May 2020, applying a comprehensive approach to reduce carbon footprint in tourism – the main and most dynamic economic sector of Montenegro. The project aims to keep the tourism sector’s greenhouse gas emissions at 2013 levels or below, even though the number of visitors to Montenegro is increasing rapidly.
To reach the objective, the project focuses on accelerating the country’s transition towards a carbon neutral Travel & Tourism industry. The strategy is to facilitate the development of supportive policies related to low carbon, while helping the tourism sector identify and implement cost-effective solutions in tourism and accommodation, including reducing energy use and transportation through greenfield development projects. In addition, the project also launches carbon offsetting schemes and innovative financing mechanisms, such as the establishment of a National Tourism Climate Fund, to offset the residual emissions and generate additional revenue for financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in the tourism sector.
The project focuses on four main objectives:
(1) Legal and regulatory framework supporting low carbon tourism and low carbon spatial planning, including increased certification of both existing and new tourist accommodation facilities and related services by internationally recognized environmental certification scheme(s).
(2) Improved low carbon and carbon neutral transport infrastructure to support tourism sector related public and non-motorized transport.
(3) Pilot investment projects to support low carbon tourism development implemented, followed up by the establishment of a sustainable financing mechanism to support climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in the tourism sector.
(4) GHG emission monitoring system and increased public awareness about the carbon footprint of the tourism sector, its GHG reduction potential and measures.
To accomplish the above four goals, the project mobilizes the participation of many parties, from central and local governments, organizations in the public sector, private sector, social organizations, international organizations, to the media community, locals and visitors. Each objective has a comprehensive, realistic implementation strategy and periodic performance evaluation programs.
Read the detailed analysis of Montenegro’s implementation of each of these goals in the next article!