Bridging the gap between tourism and environmental conservation in the Coral Triangle



Posted on 10 December 2013  | 
By Monica Patel, WWF Coral Triangle

With its white sandy beaches, astonishing array of marine life and underwater tapestry, and renowned dive sites, the Coral Triangle is easily one of the world’s most sought-after tourist destinations, bringing in millions of holidaymakers from all corners of the planet each year. This region’s tourism industry is estimated to be worth more than USD12 million annually.

Undeniably, this industry is placing a heavy strain on this world’s most precious ecological complex through unsustainable coastal development, irresponsible tourism practices, and pollution among many others—exacerbated by the threats of climate change.

Guilt-free tourism

One of the innovative ways the WWF Coral Triangle Program has sought to bridge the gap between tourism and environmental conservation is through the Tourism Energy Efficiency Investment Programme (TEEIP).

TEEIP was developed to address the complexity of pumping funds into climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in the Asia Pacific region. It involves installing, at the tourism operator’s expense, energy efficient technology in hotel and resort groups. This initiative began in Nadi, Fiji and is now being replicated in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, with 13 hotels within this resort complex.

Participating tourism operators are fitted with energy efficient technology that reduces their electricity consumption and carbon footprint. Whatever savings they generate are then channelled to a climate change adaptation trust structure to finance community-led environmental projects and used as a conservation investment for fisheries and aquaculture improvement projects as well as the management of marine conservation areas.

Numbers speak

Feasibility exercises lead by WWF and its partners show investable results.

Based on baseline data from the Fiji experience, yearly energy savings from TEEIP implementation was calculated to be around 7,555 MWh, which is equivalent to a carbon emissions reduction of about 4,847 tCO2. The electricity bill saving for the participating group was estimated to be around FJD 185,000 per year (21% of the bill).

In Indonesia, yearly energy savings from implementing this project was calculated to be around 23,000,000 KWh per year, which is equivalent to lighting 1,182 villages in Indonesia. The resort group’s collective savings can be as high as USD 2,632,032 a year, with a 45% average savings to be made, annually.

This initiative has the potential to not only generate a positive profile for participating private sector partners but also bring numerous benefits to the environment and its people. Over time, the initiative can go beyond the traditional ecotourism concept carried out by individual resorts, aiming instead for a more holistic approach and turning an entire destination into a “blue” destination.

To achieve TEEIP impact in Bali, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Indonesia-Ministry of Tourism and Creativity Economy, National Council of Climate Change (DNPI), Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KADIN), National Commission for Clean Development Mechanism (NC-CDM) and WWF was signed at the recent 2013 APEC Bali Meeting. This is also being done with the continued engagement of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bali Tourism Development Corporation, Mitsubishi Ltd, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Programme, Gold Standard, South Pole Carbon, and Synergy Carbon.

Replicating the initiative

Once implemented, TEEIP hopes to enable the expansion of similar community-led marine conservation efforts. For as little as USD 150,000 for example, tuna and squid fishers can improve their fish catch data and post capture handling methods to ensure the quality of their products, conduct biological fishery research, and develop a fishery management plan in just a span of three years.

For an event smaller amount of USD 40,000, tiger shrimp fish farmers can apply best management practices to comply with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards.

And for longer-term, higher investment projects amounting to USD 2.5 million, an entire national park can build capacity among community members on local enforcement, establish community-based fisheries monitoring and education, and improve fisheries management through regular monitoring of fish stocks and indicator species.

The possibilities are endless as long as we channel the right funds to the right projects.

Beach on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images Enlarge

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