The world being turned towards Paris these days (# COP21), I thought it could be interesting to look at tourism figures per country as they should all try to find localized solutions for a greener development.In 2014, 10 countries were representing 43% of the global worldwide tourism arrivals. Basically almost one tourist on 2 was visiting one of the below listed country.
Despite the number of visitors each country receives, they are far from being the greenest countries in the world and far from promoting ecotourism or green travel. 3 of those countries are actually among the biggest polluters in the world – Russia, the United States and China. And they still receive a total of 14% of worldwide tourism.  The question is now, how can we influence a change for those countries to start developing a greener growth? In terms of tourists traffic; the ranking is the following:

  1. France
  2. US
  3. Spain
  4. China
  5. Italy
  6. Turkey
  7. Germany
  8. UK
  9. Russia
  10. Mexico

But I wanted to check which country among those 10 was the biggest dirty player, and what was the real ranking of those countries about pollution and gas emissions? We all want to know what we gonna breathe/eat or see when traveling right? So there it is:US pollution tourism

1. The US; God bless America, and we have guns to fight climate change, so what do you expect?

The US is the first polluter in this list and the 16th biggest gas emitter per inhabitant. They produce about 15,6 % of the total gas emissions in the world which places them at the second place of all countries in the measure of emitted greenhouse gases.

Who did not expect them at this place? I mean honestly, between the heavy intensive farming and their oil consumption ( funny fact is that an American family has in average 2,3 cars) this is not very surprising.

What about the fact that an American consumes 32 times as many resources as a Kenyan? And that Kenyans are among the first ones affected by climate change? How fair is that? I deeply hope Americans will change very soon their perception of the world and the selfishness of most of the population because we would need 4 earths to sustain the way Americans consume.

So if you go to the US, try to choose green places such as hotels and restaurants that are trying to have a lower footprint. There are some tools in the US to help you find a green restaurant or a green hotel while traveling there. It is important that us as tourists we also promote a greener development so this big polluter starts changing its economy and mentalities.


2. Russia; if climate change is good for Germans* then it is no good for Russia!

Russia is the second polluter in this list and ranks 24th in the list of most polluting countries in the world in terms of gas emissions per inhabitant.  They represent 5,4% of the total worldwide greenhouse gases emissions. It took me some time to decide whether Russia should be ranked before China. Looking at the levels of greenhouses gas emissions per inhabitant, they deserve their 2nd place. Indeed, Russian population represents nearly 11% of the Chinese population and produces only 4 times less CO2 in total than China. There are many environmental issues in Russia starting with the air pollution (we all saw some pics of Moscow on a summer day), the inefficient energy usage or excessive logging leading to massive deforestation.

Putin is not the most active environmentalist but lately he has been very pragmatic and funded together with other energy producers such as Venezuela, the anti-energy organisations in the US and in Europe to prevent Europe and the US to continue fracking as this could change the export rules of natural gas. And this is something Putin cannot afford as energy is one of the Russian most powerful weapon.  But Putin never considered environment as his priority nor the rest of the population. Very few environmentalist NGO exist in Russia. And the trend is not really changing, despite pollution and sanitary problems. Not surprising coming from a country that considered beer as a non-alcoholic beverage until 2013.

(Germans*= собирательный образ means Germans but in the sense of foreigner)

3. China; you, western countries enjoyed the industrial age, it is our turn now!

China is the first biggest greenhouses gases producer in the world. And probably together with India, the most polluted country in the world. Nearly half of its population drinks contaminated water and one baby on 3 is born with a birth defect. Not cool.

Looking at the figures only, China is 3rd in this ranking but could easily rank first. Their environmental policies are close to nonexistent. What we consider animal abuses is actually promoted by law there – for example it is mandatory in China to test cosmetics on animals while it is forbidden in Europe. The Chinese government doesn’t act to solve the massive air pollution issue from the biggest cities in the country which also impacts the rest of the world as we all breathe at some moment the air from China.

In a country where manifestations are forbidden, where animal cruelty is just part of the day-to-day life and where owning stuff is what defines success in life, we can say that environment will not be the top priority anytime soon. In the most materialistic country in the world, green is not yet part of the vocabulary. 

4. Germany; climate change? Well, if that can transform Rügen into a German Ibiza then fine!

It emits about 2,1% of the total worldwide greenhouse gases and is the 7th biggest emitter. And when looking at the emissions per capita (per person) it ranks 36 of all countries in the world. I found it pretty surprising, I always thought Germany was promoting a sustainable growth for a few years already but it seems that the impact is not significant yet.

Germans adopt the same attitude as much of Europeans meaning feeling the least threatened about environmental issues linked to climate change, despite the floods, the heatwaves or wildfires that happened in Europe recently. Sixty-eight percent of Germans drink bottled water daily and “not only feel the least remorse but also are the most likely to say they won’t change their ways—even after being told how low their country has scored on the Greendex.”

“We live in the land of plenty,” NGS research manager Susan Frazier said of the prevailing attitude in many industrialized countries, “and to be completely crass about it, we don’t worry about it much.”

5. The United Kingdom

The UK is the second polluter in Europe in terms of gas emissions. They also pollute more than India when it comes to gas emissions per person.  So the UK is the 7th most visited country in the world and is one of the biggest European polluters. British people stay quite dubious about the link between human activities and global warming and like the Germans, they feel the least remorse about being a big emitter of greenhouses gases.  Indeed, only 18% of the Britons feel really worried about climate change. 

6. Italy; si Siniore, una pizza con fine particles!

The country of pizzas, pastas and prosecco appears to be 6th in this ranking. It produces 1,2% of the worldwide greenhouse gases but the each Italian emits two times more CO2 than Indians or Brazilians. For a country that relies a lot on tourism, sustainable development is not yet part of their priority. Air pollution is a big problem in Italy, so tourists, be ready for some heavy particles feast!

In order to still enjoy the great food and the charm of Italian cities, make sure you travel more responsible by choosing a green program while traveling to Italy.

7. France; let's go on strike to show our unhappiness about climate change! But paying more for greener energy? NO!

My home country, despite being the first touristic destination in the world, is far from being the first environmentalist country. Being the first nuclear energy country, it seems normal that their greenhouse gases emissions remains lower than any other country in this list. Nevertheless, France still produces 1,2% of the carbon emitted in the world. French are far from having ecology and climate change in mind, being too busy to be on strikes to get to work 35 hours a week or getting more social advantages than their European neighbors.

Anyway, as the top touristic destination every year, representing nearly 7,4% of the worldwide tourism on its own, I would expect the government to develop a more sustainable tourism. It is not yet the case but make sure while traveling to France to choose local products, to use public transportation and to contact green tour agencies such as France Écotours or other ecotourism initiatives. The sector keeps on growing though with more and more French trying to carry out more sustainable touristic programs in their home country. 

madrid pollution

8. Spain; si, si, we want greener development but we don't have the means to do so

Spain appears to be quite green compared to its European neighbors and the other countries in this list as they rank 73rd in gas emissions per capita. They produce about 0,8% of the worldwide greenhouse gases. But they could do better and with the economic crisis shaking the country since a few years, it is difficult to start new green policies. Despite that, Spanish people are very concerned about climate change and are even willing to pay more taxes to prevent climate change. If only everybody could think the same.

So next time you book a trip to Spain, think of an ecotourism agency, there are several offering different activities and which will allow you to discover in a great way the Spanish cultures and delightful cuisine. 

9. Turkey; we are pretending we are concerned about climate change because it looks good internationally but, no, we are not really

I didn’t know Turkey was such a popular touristic destination so that already surprised me. It represents 3,5% of global tourism.  Turkey started early to develop sustainable tourism; in 2002, they initiated a coastline protection project with WWF. To quote the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN : “Besides prevention of ongoing war and conflicts, and establishment of peace, Turkey attached equal importance to sustainable development, fair distribution, solidarity and particularly the alliance of civilizations and believes wholeheartedly that a different world could be built with a belief in the richness of the differences.” The country declared that they are determined to use all the opportunities to increase the share of domestic and renewable energy resources in energy supply, to enhance energy efficiency in energy generation and consumption process, and to give a transition into clean production technologies by improving R&D. But besides that they are also becoming the world’s biggest coal-fired plant. So hypocrites or really concerned? Anyway, if you want to get some nice tips on how to travel green to Turkey, you can try the official ecotourism guide, to book an Eco tour or to explore beautiful landscape with an ecotourism agency

10. Mexico; well how much do you give me not to cut that tree?

Mexico is the least polluting from this list, equaling Turkey in terms of total emitted gases but doing better than Turkey about emissions per capita. They still have many issues with pollution though. I am personally a big fan of the country (not for its green practices obviously) and I think they have tremendous efforts still to be made. But even in the deep country side, people are conscious about climate change and global warming. The only problem is that the government is quite corrupted and doesn’t really support local communities to keep the places clean or to prevent the deforestation. We saw in the Chiapas massive parts of the forest being burned to cultivate corn. If you go to Mexico, try to choose places that try to keep biodiversity and develop sustainable policies over hotel chains that just get built because someone gave the right bribe to the right public office. We were discussing with locals and many of them were telling us that the biggest hotel chains in Playa del Carmen and Cancun are ruining the coral reefs because they prevent the sediments influx from the land to reach the corals which slowly dies.  Those hotels are often built on dubious authorizations. I strongly recommend you to watch after your hotel policy about environment if you go there. Nevertheless, ecotourism is raising and some agencies offer nice tips and tours to please all wallets and traveler types. Some amazing eco-friendly hotels also started to become popular. 

We’ve seen that it is not necessarily because a country is a very touristic destination that it is promoting sustainable tourism and weirdly the biggest polluters are the least to worry about it. It is our role, travelers, to pick the right place to tell those countries that we urge/discourage their ways of doing tourism. We are not just wallets part of a gigantic industry, we can also influence by better picking J

Cet article est disponible en Français (French)