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OPINION: COP26 – These Tayside and Fife tourism stars are already a force for good on climate change

The new Dundee Cycle Hub is just one example of sustainable tourism in action.
The new Dundee Cycle Hub is just one example of sustainable tourism in action.

As the UK hosts the COP26 summit, the role of Tay Country tourism in tackling climate change is very much in focus.

It may seem strange for an organisation committed to supporting local tourism to be so invested in the outcome of a global gathering in Glasgow

But at VisitScotland, we know environmental change is one of the biggest challenges facing our tourism and events sector – and we all have a part to play.

Scotland’s breath-taking scenery is the number one reason why people come here.

Visitors from every corner of the world have fallen in love with our famous views and natural assets.

They are part of what makes Scotland so special.

We need to take action against climate change today to protect these assets for the visitors of tomorrow.

The outcome of these talks will impact every one of us and will shape how we rebuild tourism sustainably following the Covid-19 pandemic.

COP26 action is already under way

Covid has already made people pause and think about the environment, and their impact on it.

For VisitScotland and the wider tourism industry, it was a chance to reset and consider how we can build back responsibly, sustainably and safely.

COP26 presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate the decisive action that Scotland’s tourism industry is taking to secure its future  in the face of a growing climate change crisis.

Along with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and other industry leaders, we have helped to draft the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.

This includes a promise to cut emissions and reach net zero as soon as possible.

We are already working towards meeting the Scottish Government’s target of reducing emissions by 75% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2045.

And across Tay Country, more and more businesses are looking at what they can do to embrace responsible and sustainable tourism.

Angus and Dundee schemes making a difference

Arbikie Distillery near Arbroath has a mission to become the global leader in a new category of single-estate, sustainable spirits.

Not satisfied with carbon-neutral, they focused on distilling the world’s first climate-positive spirits.

This has meant going beyond achieving net zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

They achieved that goal with the launch of their climate positive, Nàdar Gin in early 2020.

A new Distillery Experience is set to open in April 2022, allowing visitors to come and experience what they do first-hand.

A new cycle hub was recently launched in Dundee next to the world-famous V&A Dundee.

It is ideally located to help visitors and locals choose cycling as their mode of transport around the city.

It also offers a shopping and eating experience, tours, bike maintenance classes, and community engagement activities on a city-wide basis.

Perthshire and Fife farms making the change

In Perthshire, accommodation provider Blairmore Farm is committed to ensuring that the built, farmed and natural environment are all protected in balance with each other.

Renewable energy-generated onsite is used for heating and hot water. The aim is to produce energy via solar and wind in the future.

They also try to boost their land’s biodiversity by leaving woodland alone to support red squirrel and buzzard populations.

Blairmore owners James Clark and Ailsa Clark. Photo: Steve MacDougall / DCT Media

And Ardross Farm Shop in Elie, Fife is a great draw for environment-conscious foodies.

Food miles here can amount to just a few metres for some products as they strive for sustainability throughout the farm and retail business.

Seasonal vegetables sold in the shop come from the field next door and beef is reared and butchered locally.

Scottish tourism adapting to climate change beyond COP26

Sustainability isn’t a niche trend.

In Scotland, around three quarter of residents agree climate change is an immediate and urgent problem so there is a real opportunity for businesses to highlight how they are playing their part.

That’s where VisitScotland can help.

As well as working with businesses, we are making it easier for visitors to tread lightly when visiting Scotland by highlighting the best green tourism experiences on our website, via social media and through our marketing.

Claire Pollok in the Ardross Farm shop.

By making sustainable travel choices we can all help protect our landscapes while at the same time boosting the local economy, culture and diversity of the areas we visit.

We face many challenges with the climate emergency and VisitScotland is part of the solution.

We are committed to working with tourism and events businesses and communities to ensure sustainability is at the heart of what they do.

As we market our country to visitors, we will make sure we inspire them to enjoy our country in a way that preserves and protects all the things that make Scotland so special.

This is tourism as a force for good, creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

Caroline Warburton is Regional Leadership Director for VisitScotland.

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