The climate emergency, declared by the United Nations in 2019, and which is increasingly evident, is not a natural phenomenon, but the result of some – relatively few – decades of excesses in the emission of greenhouse gases, which today they accumulate in the atmosphere and alter the balance of the climate on our planet.
According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism activity is attributed to around 8% of total CO2 emissions globally. In Peru, according to GreenInitiative, it is estimated that about 5% of total emissions are related to tourism.
It is, therefore, necessary that the tourism industry worldwide and in Peru, in particular, improve its practices and incorporate climate action as a standard between destinations and companies. A fundamental aspect of this change consists of putting into practice the management for the reduction of carbon emissions (mitigation) and achieving the carbon-neutral certification promoted internationally by GreenInitiative.
On September 2, as a result of a strategic alliance formed by the District Municipality of Machu Picchu, Inkaterra Hotels, AJE Group and Bosques Amazónicos, accompanied by allies from PROMPERU, the Ministry of the Environment, the Peruvian Hotels Society, and the Association Peruvian Adventure and Ecotourism Companies (APTAE), celebrated the certification of Machu Picchu, as the first international tourist destination, which reaches the carbon-neutral certificate.
The certification was granted to Machu Picchu by the Green Initiative company after complying with the certification cycle that lasted for five months.
As part of the certification cycle, the Municipality formalized, through UN-Climate Change – ClimateNeutralNow program, its climate commitment, aligning itself with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement and the recommendations for low-carbon tourism reactivation, promoted by the One Planet program of the World Tourism Organization.
As part of the collaboration between the GreenInitiative and the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM – Global website & Regional website), the results of the carbon footprint report have been reported to the CDP platform. These results (available at CDP platform) indicated that, in 2019, a typical year of economic activity, the carbon footprint reached 8,619 tons, and in 2020, a year of crisis, due to the COVID pandemic, the footprint was contracted 61%, getting 3,320 tons.
These results confirm precisely that, for the moment, tourism activity and the generation of carbon emissions are directly related. That is, they have a positive correlation.
The challenge for Machu Picchu to reach the goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 consists of promoting the reactivation of tourism and its economic recovery, without this representing an increase in carbon emissions.
The report also revealed that through mitigation measures implemented since 2017, the Municipality avoided the emission of near 30 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. These results were achieve through three circular economy projects promoted by the Municipality, collaborating with Inkaterra Hotels and AJE Grup.
The organic waste treatment plant by pyrolysis avoided the generation of 8.5 tCO2eq; it processes organic waste at high temperatures to obtain ‘biochar,’ which stores carbon in a recalcitrant form to increase the retention capacity of nutrients and water. The community uses the biochar as fertilizer and the National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the State (SERNANP) in their reforestation tasks at the sanctuary.
Implementing the Biodiesel Plant, which avoids the arrival of 1,000 gallons of vegetable oil waste to the Vilcanota River, would have generated a reduction of 17.9 tCO2eq in 2019. It also gave job opportunities in the production of eco-friendly fuel and chemical-free glycerin.
Adding to these efforts, two Plastic Waste Compactors for Machu Picchu Pueblo and the Inca Trail, with the capacity to manage 7 tons of PET waste per month, are now contributing to efficiency in logistics and the extension of the plastic waste life through its reincorporation into the production cycle of recycled PET bottles.
Following its commitment to environmental sustainability, Machu Picchu offset past emissions from its operations (carbon footprint) through carbon credits generated by “REDD+ Brazil nut concessions”: a conservation program which protects more than 300,000 hectares of the most biodiverse forests in the Amazon basin, developed by Bosques Amazónicos (BAM) in partnership with 450 families in Madre de Dios, Peru.
Among the GreenInitiative recommendations, the opportunity to replicate the experience of Machu Picchu in other tourist destinations, integrating climate action to the tourism recovery in Peru, stands out.
Luciana Visnevski is GreenInitiative Country Director in Peru