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What the COP? Making meaningful change manageable

Extracted from the Editor's Letter - Bites and Bytes Newsletter 4

Published Decmeber 2022

by Dr. Andrea Ferry

This edition of Bits & Bytes falls squarely in between two of the biggest environmental meetings of the year: COP27 and COP15. The news is awash with commentary from the UN Climate Meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh and what progress, if any, has been made. And soon, our timelines will be filled with similar updates from the UN’s Biodiversity Meeting in Montreal.

COP27, unfortunately, appears to be making slow progress on the critical issue of emissions, but what it has done is create the environment for more positive alliances. Participating countries have agreed to a ‘loss and damage’ fund – a big jump forward for climate justice.

The Global Renewables Alliance has been formed to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy. Brazil, Indonesia and Congo – stewarding more than half the world’s rainforests – have signed the Rainforest Protection Pact. Oh, and not least, the shark fin trade will be regulated to save sharks from extinction – we love that one. So, the news isn’t all bad. But are people beyond those participating at COP27 engaged in the biggest challenge facing humankind?

Yes, you’d be forgiven for thinking COP was all anyone talks or thinks about, given the news cycle and our social media feeds but in actual fact, studies are showing people feel more disenfranchised and helpless than ever. In a recent episode of Outrage & Optimism1, Tom Rivett-Carnac noted that a study had shown 80% of North Americans and Europeans feel the climate movement is not welcoming to them. A separate study showed that of 2,000 UK adults polled, 20% admitted to not engaging with the climate agenda, and one-fifth stated that feeling ‘alone’ in making a difference was one of the main reasons they had not attempted to tackle the issue2, and that’s just in the UK – the percentage of the global population that feel this way is likely considerably higher.

If we’re serious about tackling climate change and biodiversity loss and creating resilient businesses – which frankly, we have to be – then we have to do better at bringing people along on the journey.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the travel sector, where out of a crisis, we have an opportunity. As Ms Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), stated during the Tourism Declares event at COP27, “the window of opportunity to rethink and reform our sector is closing”. Why does this matter? Because the sector accounted for 10% of global GDP pre-pandemic – that is huge, in case you were wondering.

But to rethink and reform the travel sector, we need to break down the barriers of entry to better practices. Operating sustainably can no longer be the remit of eco-lodges. It must be mainstreamed, and it must be welcoming for all. I would hazard a guess that many in the travel sector might have read the odd COP round-up, but their focus is primarily on the business in front of them, regaining pre-COVID occupancy levels, managing supply chain issues, swallowing rising produce costs – and not necessarily which Minister said what at COP and who the latest youth activist is. And while these are both important for the everyday travel practitioner, they are not the priority.

So, let’s simplify statistics, improve access to data, and break down the climate goals into bite-size actions that you and I can manage. Because at the end of the day, if all 8 billion3 of us make one small change to our behaviours, be that changing our air conditioning filters, buying locally grown apples rather than those from across the ocean, turning off unused electrical items, growing native flowers, not invasive species – the list goes on – we’d probably get a whole lot more done than those folks in suits do at COP.

If you’re ready to cut through the COP and start making incremental changes that will build your business back better, stronger, and in a way that’s net-positive, join us on Weeva.

Dr. Andrea Ferry

Dr. Andrea Ferry

Sustainability Consultant | Weeva

Dr Andrea Ferry is a sustainability consultant who works with clients to design and embed sustainability programmes and practices in their daily operations. She is particularly experienced in advising hospitality businesses on their sustainability measures, having worked with the Singita brand for over ten years. She has also worked with a range of clients in banking, tech and retail in her capacity as a Senior Consultant with corporate responsibility consultancy Trialogue. Prior to becoming a sustainability consultant, Andrea practised as a Chartered Accountant for 14 years and has strong business process, data management and reporting skills. Andrea has poured her wealth of sustainability knowledge, passion and experience into Weeva to not only ensure it measures and maps the correct metrics, but that the educational help guides and tips on best practise are robust.

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