IGF 2021 WS #214 Achieving Sustainable Local Tourism and Nature Conservation

Time
Friday, 10th December, 2021 (13:00 UTC) - Friday, 10th December, 2021 (14:00 UTC)
Room
Conference Room 7

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Sum Yue Chung, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Rui Cui, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Edmon Chung, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Kam-sing Wong, Government, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 5: Purusottam Khanal, Government, Asia-Pacific Group

Format

Break-out Group Discussions - Flexible Seating - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Reducing impact: How can we achieve a net zero impact on climate change of the further expansions of the Internet and its infrastructure? How can Internet standards, governance and policy choices, and standards for device design, development and manufacture, contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the Internet (e.g. through the adoption of green computing, energy efficient servers and machines/processes, and by policy contributions)? How can we further use digital technologies to better predict and manage the impacts of climate change?
Environmental education: How can policymakers leverage the Internet and Internet governance processes for expanding and strengthening environmental education? Should computer science curricula, Internet governance capacity development and digital literacy programmes include awareness of environmental sustainability?

V’air Hong Kong has been dedicating our effort as youths in influencing Hong Kong people to mitigate climate change through our digital platform since 2015, but that alone was not enough. How could relevant stakeholders from different sectors and regions cooperate to achieve sustainable local tourism and nature conservation with digital transformations?

This workshop aims to provide a platform for the IT developers, digital innovators, policymakers, and the civil society across Asia Pacific to discuss how the development of digital infrastructure could enhance sustainable local tourism and nature conservation.

In answering to the first policy question: “reducing impact”, speakers will make their opening statements based on their work experiences that focus on one of the three aspects:

  1. Ways to achieve the net-zero goals in the travel industry with the development of digital infrastructure;
  2. Ways to contribute to nature conservation via Internet standards, governance and policy choices, and
  3. Ways to utilise digital technology to manage the impacts of climate change

The above areas will shed some light on how the latest digital infrastructure development, alongside the expansion of the Internet, help address sustainable local tourism and nature conservation. 

In answering to the second policy question: “environmental education”, speakers will return to the panel and discuss how youth groups, civil society, academia, businesses, and policymakers could leverage the Internet and Internet governance processes to expand and strengthen environmental education on sustainable tourism and nature conservation.

To conclude the workshop, speakers will also explore the ways to seek a multi-stakeholder collaboration to enhance digital literacy and internet governance capacity, alongside environmental sustainability. 

SDGs

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
13. Climate Action
15. Life on Land

Targets: With the faith that technology developers, digital corporations, policymakers, and civil society have influential roles in promoting green tourism alongside nature conservation, our proposal aims to address how to stimulate 1) investment in green infrastructure, 2) climate resilience measures, 3) soft measures on heritage and environmental conservation, and 4) social awareness.

In this connection, below are the SDG targets related to our workshop:

SDG 8: Decent work and Economic Growth As stated by the UN World Tourism Organisation, “tourism can be a powerful vehicle for promoting and reaching developmental milestones.” In this connection, the outcomes of sustainable local tourism could promote sustained, inclusive, and long-term economic growth, enhancing local culture and products. Moreover, the increasing digital literacy and digital infrastructure help society pursue high-quality economic development. Thus, the concept of “doughnut economy”, impact investing, and sustainable finance would be achieved in the foreseeable future.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities Promoting sustainable local tourism and conducting nature conservation could help make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Moreover, the overall strategy for engaging local communities in green recovery in the tourism sector can create the community’s aspirations for urban-rural symbiosis. Specifically, government and civil society can strengthen environmental education through various forms of digital literacy programmes, encouraging citizens to pursue sustainable cities and communities.

SDG 13: Climate action As mentioned in the description, the tourism sector has been calculated to account for 5% of global carbon emissions. Thus, local tourism is a direct and feasible strategy for climate change mitigation, contributing to the carbon neutrality plan in the sector. Furthermore, by utilising digital technologies, we can better predict and manage the impacts of climate change because of tourism transport.

SDG 15: Life on Land Unknowingly, the Internet has a direct impact on wildlife and the environment, coupled with abusive mining of social media data for criminal poaching and deforestation activities threatening the survival of tigers and other wildlife— the convenience of shopping online for illegal wildlife further challenges enforcement. We could support rangers & frontline conservation efforts through digital technologies by WiFi Mesh Networking, Geographical Info-Systems, big data analytics, and other related technologies. Overall, it can achieve a progressive plan of nature conservation.

Description: 

Unknowingly, the Internet we use every day has a direct impact on the environment. With the spread of the online platform for low-cost airlines, the European Commission reported in 2015 that the tourism sector had been calculated to account for 5% of global carbon emissions. 

However, under the COVID-19 pandemics, outbound travel has been seriously disrupted, and the whole industry has put a massive effort into technological breakthroughs toward carbon offsetting. All these factors have successfully reduced the effects of tourism – a sector that contributed to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions before the pandemics – on the environment. It gives us a hint that cleaner air, clearer water, and more favourable conservation status are achievable if all relevant stakeholders are actively involved in its management. 

Different forms of sustainable, green, and local tourism have become increasingly popular in recent years. Stakeholders from all sectors and regions are also trying to enhance the digital infrastructure in their home country, facilitating circular economy progresses.

Nonetheless, as people adopt the lifestyle under the new normal, governments and administrations are now facing a dilemma – should they prioritise economic recovery? Climate researchers have started to voice their concerns regarding the return of over-tourism. In this connection, it is high time we planned for a more sustainable future for tourism and nature conservation, alongside empowering individuals to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. 
The workshop aims to initiate conservations to provide a platform to bring people together from various stakeholder groups worldwide as equals in discussions on the potential of digital infrastructure for promoting sustainable local tourism and nature conservation.

As stated by Anne Burrill, Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission, partnership work is key to the successful implementation of progressive nature and biodiversity policy. In this connection, what should governments, private sectors, academia, and civil society do so that digital infrastructure can be harnessed for promoting sustainable local tourism and nature conservation? The purpose of this workshop is to take stock of the outstanding strategies implemented by the stakeholders across the continents for carbon neutrality and nature conservation. Furthermore, by examining the global trends regarding the growing need for a broader circular economy, participants will also explore how to leverage the latest technology to boost green investment and circular economy in the tourism sector.

Related issues: climate change, sustainable cities, environmental education, environmental sustainability, sustainable exploitation of natural resources for digital technologies, digital capacities for natural disasters response, indigenous communities environmental/climate resilience.

Expected Outcomes

As a newly-explored topic in IGF, this workshop will gather the latest efforts made by stakeholders ranging from civil society to government officials and from academia to the business sectors. It will also seek to figure out the best model for multi-level collaboration regarding sustainable local tourism and nature conservation by utilizing digital infrastructure. Participants can thus bring those insights gained from the workshop to their mother countries. After all, we aim to publish a post-session document for follow-up actions.

There will be several rounds of the optional pre-IGF workshops and introductory sessions: Guest speakers can familiarize themselves with each other and exchange their personal experience before the official launch of the IGF on the one hand. Moderators could coordinate the role of each speaker based on their agenda items on the other.

In order to provide the best possible IGF experience, on-site moderators will cooperate with the online moderator during the workshop. Questions and comments will be alternated between the in-person microphone queue and the online queue. If possible, there will also be a post-workshop online mingling session to engage all participants.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Governments, business sectors, academia, social enterprises, civil society, and indigenous people should join hands and build up active communities for promoting sustainable local tourism and nature conservation in the spirit of “Chiho Sosei” and Satoyama Initiative.

Improving the mobile network coverage in rural areas and promoting multi-culturalism are the keys to creating an eco-tourism-friendly environment, alongside achieving the vision of “smart cities” in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

While wildlife trade is not a high priority issue for governments, it is a growing business. Thus, civil society needs to urge credit card companies and online payment platforms to explore ways to prevent money from flowing into illegal activities.

We must facilitate networking for youth organisations, promote dialogue between youth groups and governments, allocate mentors to guide them to implement their plans for achieving SDGs.

Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Rui CUI: As the founder of Social Responsibility Practitioners (SRP) – a China-based NGO powered by youth to promote SDGs, Rui shared about SRP’s practices regarding promoting sustainable local tourism and nature conservation via digital means. Firstly, to help promote the concept of eco-tourism in the Philippines, they cooperated with Filipino travel influencers to write about eco-tourism, alongside facilitating a conversation about the relevant topics on social media. At the same time, they also join hands with a Philippines-based social enterprise to design a tourism package, catalysing the digital economy in the countries. To expand the sustainable tourism market in the Philippines, they have been building up an active community in Mainland China via WeChat, fostering the bilateral relationship between China and the Philippines at a community level.

Edmon CHUNG: The core operation of the DotAsia Organization is to manage the .asia domain. Notably, all of their income comes back into supporting internet development and adoption around Asia, and one of the areas they have been supporting is SDGs. Since 2016, when the UN’s SDGs were put in place, DotAsia initiated the Ajitora Project, starting with tigers as its symbol, that goes into primary, secondary, and tertiary students to engage them about the Internet. As part of the advocacy for eco-internet, the Ajitora Project looks at the situation regarding how the Internet has an impact on carbon footprint. DotAsia also observes the capacity, the bandwidth of the digital infrastructure, and the advantages of transforming into a digital economy. As the pilot study, they took six jurisdictions and looked at the situations: 1) The extent of the digital economy versus the Internet carbon footprint, 2) how the power grid supports the Internet, and 3) how efficient is the Internet itself regarding power consumption and carbon footprint is.  

Kam-sing WONG: Hong Kong is a highly urbanised city, with 70+% of the rural and countryside areas in the territories. There are a few things that HKSARG has done in recent years to promote sustainable local tourism with the concept of smart city: 1) improving the mobile network coverage and connection in the rural area, 2) promoting culturalism, 3) using artificial intelligence and robots to detect fire outbreaks for countryside conservation. The overall strategy for the HKSARG is to make Hong Kong go carbon neutral by 2050. And thus, it is essential to promote sustainable local tourism, facilitate public engagement, and e Hong Kong citizens to adopt a low carbon lifestyle. Three years ago, the HKSARG established the Countryside Conservation Office with the aim t  protect the natural ecology of the remote countryside, revitalise the architectural environment of villages and conserve cultural and heritage resources. Thus, it is crucial for the HKSARG to collaborate amongst the local communities, Universities, NGOs and the business sectors, promoting tourism in a smart, low carbon manner. Furthermore, the recent Northern Metropolis Development Strategy reveals that the whole area will be developed into an innovation and technology hub, alongside conserving the wetland in the region and making it a highly livable, smart, and futuristic city.

Natalie CHUNG: The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the role of digital technology in driving transformations, at the same time exacerbating inequalities. Around last year’s Internet Governance Forum, United Nations published the “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”, which defines the vision of connecting, respecting and protecting all people online. In the report, a quote says, “Digital technology does not exist in a vacuum – it has enormous potential for positive change, but can also reinforce and magnify existing fault lines and worsen inequalities”. Under the context of planetary health, IT operations consume a massive amount of electricity and will be the main contributor to climate change. Technological advancements can offer brand-new solutions to environmental challenges, building a Carbon Conscious Internet. Virtual tours with VR and AR can increasingly provide a more holistic and fruitful user experience for the eco-tourism industry and enhance social inclusion by enabling marginalised communities to engage in leisure tourism activities.

Edward CHOI: The potential of digital technologies can be best harnessed through multistakeholder collaboration. Youths are taking a more prominent role in the digital world, from building their start-ups to gathering force for climate movements. However, youths are also among the most vulnerable to misinformation. Therefore, youths are stakeholders who should never be missed in formulating digital policies. When policymakers and businesses sit down and listen to youths and civil society members, inclusive and futureproof solutions for nature conservation can be co-created. As a youth representative, it is essential to continue unleashing the potential of youths for building human-centric digital solutions for nature education and sustainable eco-tourism.