Carbon offsetting: motives for participation and impacts on travel behaviour

E Eijgelaar, D. Kinderen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Climate change has been described as the greatest environmental challenge of our time, not only for mankind (UN, 2011), but also for tourism (OECD-UNEP, 2011). Severe impacts of climate change, generally linked to exceeding 2°C global temperature rise, can only be prevented to some extent by drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels and thereby greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the next few decades. In this respect, an 80-95 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 1990/2000 levels is recognised as the minimum required effort (Allison et al., 2009; Rogelj et al., 2011). Even with a full implementation of these goals, an increase above 2°C is not unlikely (World Bank, 2012). The contribution of global tourism to anthropogenic CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 5 per cent for 2005, corresponding to 1,302 Mt CO2, 75 per cent of which were from transport and 40 per cent from aviation alone. Tourism’s CO2 emissions are estimated to increase 135 per cent (to 3,000 Mt CO2) by 2035, which includes the high efficiency gains forecasted for air transport (Peeters and Dubois, 2010; UNWTO-UNEP-WMO, 2008). The share of aviation will increase as air travel is expected to grow faster than overall tourism trips (ICAO, 2010; UNWTO, 2011). Emission scenarios for civil aviation vary from 1,034 to 3,105 Mt CO2 for 2050 (Lee et al., 2013). The further development of tourism CO2 emissions is in stark contrast to the aforementioned global emission reduction needs. In fact, when assuming this business-as-usual growth path, tourism would exceed the global economy’s reduced emission budget by midcentury on its own (Scott et al., 2010). Given these developments it is not surprising that some regard the (mainstream) tourism industry as becoming less sustainable (Bramwell and Lane, 2012; Buckley, 2012; Gössling et al., 2012). In acknowledgement of the limited short-term energy reduction potential of technological improvements in aviation and the absence of short-term structural changes in travel behaviour, carbon offsetting has been accepted as an intermediate, albeit less effective solution for mitigating tourism emissions. This research aims to register the motives for buying offsets, but more particularly the effect of offsetting, as well as not offsetting, on the travel behaviour of Dutch tourists.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding and governing sustainable tourism mobility: psychological and behavioural approaches
EditorsS.A. Cohen, J.E.S. Higham, S. Gössling, P. Peeters
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781135038311
ISBN (Print)9780415839372
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameContemporary geographies of leisure, tourism and mobility


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