AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR A LOW CARBON TOURISM ECONOMY IN THE SOUTH WEST OF ENGLAND
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Achieving a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has become a key challenge facing global society and its economies. Despite this, tourism policy and strategic planning rarely acknowledge carbon mitigation as a strategic objective and tourism as a sector is rarely recognised in low-carbon plans. This situation represents a substantial challenge, as tourism and travel have a high-carbon impact and carbon mitigation is hindered by lack of carbon data, and a continued drive for economic growth. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the effectiveness of carbon footprinting and scenario modelling to help examine the opportunities and challenges for implementing low-carbon tourism pathways in destinations, and to consider how the opportunities could be enabled. The 'REAP Tourism' footprint tool was used to investigate the carbon impact of visitors to destinations across South West England. The purpose was to estimate emissions, suggest a baseline footprint and offer alternative growth and mitigation scenarios of how tourism could more effectively reduce emissions. Through participatory workshops, evaluation questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, stakeholders identified the limitations and benefits of carbon modelling and the challenges and opportunities for a transition towards low-carbon tourism in destinations. The results demonstrated that the carbon footprint was a useful and informative indicator. The baseline data and scenarios provided a basis for constructive low-carbon dialogue with tourism stakeholders, which helped to challenge current thinking and facilitate the co-creation of ideas and potential interventions. A range of low-carbon opportunities and challenges were identified relating to the cultural, political and structural components of tourism governance. A conceptual low-carbon transition framework is proposed, to illustrate the opportunities. Stakeholder dialogue and debate, informed by quantitative and qualitative data, is central to the framework. Cultural, political and structural opportunities for change are also identified. Further investigation is needed to test the framework and examine the levels of influence and capabilities of different types of tourism stakeholders. The use of integrated environmental-economic indicators to inform national and local tourism policy and strategy, also require application. This thesis contributes to an emerging body of knowledge on the governance of low-carbon destinations, from a practical, methodological and conceptual basis.