The initiative conceived in the Pacific Island shows that the commitment to adopt eco-respectful behaviour while travelling is fundamental to contributing to the fight against climate change.
The tourism sector is responsible for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in it being even more polluting than the construction sector. Indeed, both transportation to touristic places and consumption of goods and services hardly comply with eco-responsible behaviours, and they consequently turn out to be highly detrimental to the atmosphere. In order to face such a challenge, it is required to implement strict regulations both internationally and domestically, as well as the introduction of modern technologies helping to mitigate the impact of touristic practices on the environment. However, in addition to these more ambitious projects, it would be nonetheless important for the tourists to adopt more eco-sensible behaviours while visiting their destinations, as this would contribute to protecting the biodiversity of the natural landscapes more exposed to touristic flows. Against this backdrop, it is worth recalling Palau’s innovative example of the management of people visiting the island.
The Republic of Palau is a small insular nation situated in the Pacific Ocean. Tourism is the largest and most profitable industry in Palau, constituting its main source of income and employment. The massive number of tourists, while increasing the economic resources of the country, on one hand, has endangered the territory’s biodiversity on the other hand. In light of this, throughout the years the local government adopted manifold strategies in order to pull a plug on this concerning trend: unfortunately, very few concrete results were achieved. For these reasons, in 2017 was promoted the Palau Legacy Project, which was a campaign enshrining the creation of a never-seen-before document: the Palau pledge. Due to such an innovation, Palau has been the first country to change its domestic immigration laws for motives related to environmental protection.
The Palau Pledge is a short passport-like declaration that visitors have to sign before being allowed to access the island, in order to formally commit themselves to adopt behaviours respectful of the ecological and cultural traits of the country during the whole permanence on Palau’s territory. Therefore, every single tourist needs to assume the duty to preserve the land, not take what is not given, and not cause harm without exigence of self-defence. Conclusively, visitors must promise that the only footprints they will leave behind them are those which will be washed away by the waves of the ocean.
This document is even more significant because its drafting was carried out with the help of children from all over Palau, as to emphasize its importance in terms of guaranteeing the next generations. In line with this, the vows contained in the declaration are formally addressed to every kid of the island.
As redundant as it might be, it is useful to clarify that the Palau Pledge in itself is not enough to establish binding legal obligations on individuals. Consequently, breaches of this declaration would not amount to unlawful acts (unless they violate other official norms too). Nevertheless, the mandatory signing of such an instrument represents a commendable communication initiative to shed light on the paramount character of sustainable touristic behaviours and attitudes.