Palau preparing to become the world’s first carbon neutral country

Published on : Saturday, November 7, 2020

The island nation of Palau is preparing to emerge as the world’s first carbon neutral country, offering an example for others to follow. The Republic of Palau is an archipelago of 500 islands in the western Pacific. It aims to become the world’s first carbon neutral tourism destination. The project aims to decrease Palau’s carbon footprint both domestically and by foreign tourism, while increasing the production of locally sourced and sustainable food.

Launched in August, the initiative is a collaborative effort between Sustainable Travel International, Slow Food International and the Palau Bureau of Tourism. This project presents a response to climate change that operates in cooperation with the islands’ key industry, i.e. tourism.

Palau boasts of tropical rainforests, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, coral reefs and marine lakes, making it one of the most biologically-rich island groups in Oceania, and a top destination for marine tourism.

In 2019, 89,000 international travelers visited the island chain, which is home to only 22,000 people. Tourism in the island is responsible for considerable income and employment, contributing US$67 million, or 47 per cent of the national GDP.

Tourism is also a key driver of climate change. Visitors come in from overseas destinations consuming imported foods during their stays.

More than 25 per cent of Palau’s landmass lies less than ten meters above sea level, and this leaves the nation at a great risk of rising sea levels due to climate change.

The collaboration will look to increase food production by local farmers and fishers, emphasizing on sustainable practices and female entrepreneurs. A campaign will commemorate the nation’s gastronomic heritage, encouraging hotels and tourism enterprises to dish up locally sourced ingredients and dishes.

“The rapid growth of an unsustainable tourist industry based on broken food systems has been a key driver of the climate crisis and ecosystem destruction,” said Paolo di Croce, the general secretary of Slow Food International, a global network working with communities for boosting sustainable food systems.

“This project represents the antithesis, a solution that strives to strengthen and restore value to local food systems, reduce the cultural and environmental damage caused by food imports, and improve the livelihoods of food producers both in Palau and beyond”, Pasolo added.

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