RTEA Namibia Sectoral Paper - Ecotourism and the Informal Carbon Market: Is the Climate Right for Change?

By Andee Davidson on November 16, 2009

Namibia has recently undertaken a rapid trade and environment assessment, which identified potential green opportunities and likely threats from international trade law and technical standards. The assessment has ignited national debate among stakeholders from the often unconnected sectors of international trade, environment, agriculture, water, energy, tourism and others. The rapid assessment is the start of a process of greater collaboration between these previously distinct sectors, which will have the opportunity to collaborate to a greater extent in the future. Namibia's economy cannot compete with neighbouring South Africa's economic and infrastructural advantages, but the country can excel in some high-value niche areas, depending on how policy-makers plan ahead.

International tourists (especially those from Europe, Namibia's main source market) are increasingly becoming aware of issues related to climate change and global warming. Recent studies conducted in Namibia suggest that though the tourism resource itself may be directly impacted by climate change, climate change is highly likely to have an indirect impact on tourism, primarily linked to tourists' concerns over the contribution of their trips to global warming. Without action, these fears could result in deterioration of the Namibian tourism economy. This policy brief highlights opportunities and areas for further attention and follow-up in the tourism sector.

Key findings:

  • Namibia possesses a world-class tourism resource-both natural and cultural. However, in order to capitalize on this and create a comparative advantage over other destinations, it is important that the tourism sector ensures it is fully aligned with emerging market demand and, in particular, consumer concerns about global warming.

  • Namibia is at a turning point for the future of the tourism sector and its response to climate change. This is made more important by the current global economic downturn. If the sector decides to continue with business as usual, there is a real possibility that Namibia will lose its market share and the sector will decline. If, however, the country makes a concerted and collaborative effort to embrace change and take advantage of the opportunities presented by climate change, the country has the potential to develop as a world-leading tourism destination.

Key recommendations:

  • Make all tourism products able to demonstrate that they have a high level of sustainable environmental management, make a contribution to conservation and minimize greenhouse gas emissions (or, better still, become carbon neutral). Ensure they contribute toward economic development and, more specifically, poverty alleviation.

  • Create a national policy on climate change and tourism that provides a framework and direction for addressing climate change issues related to tourism, including guidelines related to voluntary carbon-offset products.

  • Ensure that existing policies and bodies such as the Tourism Policy, the Namibia Tourism Board, the Environmental Management Act and national development plans include tourism-related climate change issues.

  • Ensure that the investment environment encourages investment in communal areas and, in particular, partnerships with conservancies and communities, with an emphasis on appropriate technologies-especially those that conserve water and lead to a reduction in carbon emissions.

  • Actively promote appropriate technology and, in particular, carbon emissions reductions, and encourage the private sector to do the same.

  • Actively raise awareness of climate change implications for tourism.

  • Highlight the need for accuracy of tourism growth targets in light of climate change implications.

  • Establish a national body, coalition or reference group to provide expertise and guidance to oversee the quality control of development of carbon-neutral and carbon-offset products.

Report details

IISD, 2009