Peru Environment and Commerce Ministers sign framework agreement to promote sustainable tourism in Peru

A framework agreement to promote the development of sustainable tourism in Peru was signed Sunday on World Tourism Day by Environment Minister Antonio Brack Egg, Commerce and Tourism Minister Mercedes Aráoz and several of the country’s regional presidents.

“Today’s world faces two great challenges: extreme poverty and climate change,” said Aráoz in press release issued by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, or UNWTO. “The solution to these problems requires an urgent change of behavior in the general population (and) tourism can encourage such a change through the responsible use of energy and natural resources.”

“We are a country with an extraordinary biological diversity,” added Aráoz, “and this gives us an unbeatable advantage for the development of tourism.”

The agreement, which acknowledges that tourism’s contribution to climate change entails the responsible use of natural resources and the energy currently available while encouraging a shift to renewable energy sources, promotes a more efficient public transport system, the control of greenhouse gas emissions and reforestation.

But, according to Aráoz, “although tourism contributes to climate change, restrictions on long-distance tourism would be counterproductive in the fight against poverty, as it is the way through which expenditure by developed countries is carried out in less-advantaged countries.”

“In the countries of the southern hemisphere, tourism has proven to be a prominent element of their economies,” Aráoz said, “as tourism contributes to poverty reduction, an indispensable condition for the conservation of the environment and sustainable development.”

According to the UNWTO, more than 842 million people traveled internationally in 2007, and this is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2010. Worldwide, international tourist arrivals grew at around 5 percent between January and April 2008, compared to the same period of 2007.

Meanwhile, biodiversity has declined by 40% from 1970 to 2000 and man’s ecological footprint outpaced the Earth’s biological capacity by 20 percent. And, according to SustainableTourism.Net, a third of the natural world has been destroyed by human activity since 1970.

As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry — be it sustainable or not — travel generates significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution, as well as social and cultural systems.

“We can’t afford to keep waiting,” said the UNWTO Assistant Secretary General Taleb Rifai, adding that the focus on climate change and the broader development agenda coincides with UNWTO’s active support of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

“Tourism must demonstrate that it is responsible environmentally but we must also acknowledge that (tourism) is having an impact on (the environment) and that many tourist destinations are being affected by climate change.”

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