World’s First Climate Positive Traveller Expedition

Many people believe that carbon offsetting literally annihilates their emissions (magically sweeps them away) when the real benefit is simply that emissions do not grow… talking of carbon reductions, however, is misleading. — Dr. Susanne Becken, Director, Griffith Institute for Tourism, Australia

While the world is working on efficient methods to reduce their carbon emissions, Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), a Social Impact Travel Enterprise, with the help of travellers, is investing in infrastructure to reduce carbon-emitting sources and provide clean energy access to the remote communities of Himalayas.

According to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, the tourism sector currently accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. With each passing year, the tourism industry has been growing on a global scale. As per the World Travel & Tourism Council’s report, the contribution of the tourism economy to world GDP is expected to rise by 3.8% pa, from 2018–2028. Currently, aviation alone is responsible for 12% of CO2 emission from all transport services. Therefore, at this juncture, it becomes critical that we assess our practices, methods, and concepts towards combating climate change and its impact globally.

What is Carbon Negative Travel?

You must have heard of Carbon Neutral Travel where your greenhouse emissions in the environment are offset by allocating funds to emission reduction programs such as afforestation and renewable energy deployments. Most of the methods that are implemented in our industry are focused on coming up with a solution that would “just” offset the carbon emission generated. They are essentially reactive methods to somewhat mitigate the Carbon footprint generated.

However, the emissions are not offset or ‘compensated’ at the location you visit, but in a totally different geography. We cannot create a situation where the whole world wants to travel and we keep planting more trees on an island. Further, are these approaches adequate to deal with the rapid increase in carbon emission? Do we need to go beyond our call of duty to seeking being carbon neutral (i.e. in a sense of a net zero gain relative to status quo) and instead contributing to real reductions. In other words, should we be more proactive than simply offsetting our own emissions?

These questions point to the need of taking a step ahead to fight climate change. While the world is making efforts to mitigate the current carbon emission and adopting innovative technology, a step forward would be creating a positive impact on the planet that would provide a long-term solution to future carbon emission. A solution that is not based on offsetting but proactively works towards achieving a net negative carbon impact on the environment is needed.

World’s first Carbon Negative Expeditions

The expeditions conducted by GHE are based on an approach to create a climate positive change. The tourism model of GHE is based on the Impact Travel concept, where tourism leaves strong positive impacts on tourists, the community and the destination as a whole. Participants travel to the remote villages of Himalayas to provide clean energy access to indigenous communities. These remote communities have still not received access to electricity and rely heavily on toxic kerosene oil lamps for lighting and energy needs. Travelers who join GHE, trek to these villages to set up solar microgrids and provide clean access to energy for these communities living in dark for centuries. The infrastructure setup by these travelers is a sustainable one that lasts for at least 10 years and is maintained as well as owned by community.

GHE calculates carbon footprints for each expedition they conduct to electrify a village. The carbon footprints calculated not only includes the footprints of the traveler for the course of the expedition (including their air travel to get to India), but it also considers the footprint of the Solar Material Installed and its maintenance for next 10 years. The carbon credit generated is calculated based on the avoided liters of Kerosene Oil that will not be needed by the village once it is solar electrified.

Based on the actual data calculated, the carbon credit resulting from the expedition intervention is on average double the carbon footprint generated during the expedition. Thus, the expedition does not just offset the CO2 emissions from its own activities but also helps avoid future carbon emissions at the destination. This makes these expeditions a genuine case of carbon negative travel and a unique model for the global tourism industry to promote travel that results in a net benefit.

Today’s travelers are becoming increasingly conscious of making socially responsible and ecologically sensitive choices in the travels they undertake. What if you can be directly part of the opportunity to solve the problems of climate change and create a positive social impact on the communities that you visit — making your vacation an unforgettable experience?


This post was written by Manjiri Gaikwad, Community Tourism Lead, GHE and Paras Loomba, Founder & CEO, GHE. GHE was a WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow 2018 Award Winner.

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