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INSIDE STORY: Catalysing sustainable tourism: The case of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the fastest growing cities in Thailand and serves as a regional economic and cultural hub in the northern part of the country. Its rich cultural heritage and pristine natural resources draw millions of tourists each year. However, rapid growth and expansion, exacerbated by the rising tourist influx, has put a strain on the city’s natural resources. Faced with rampant unplanned development, air and water pollution, wasteWaste consists of unwanted and thrown away goods that often still have value as fuel or raw material. management problems and traffic congestion, the city of Chiang Mai has launched the non-motorised transport (NMT) system, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissionsGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. and create employment opportunities for the urban poor. Because of its many co-benefitsThe benefits of policies implemented for various reasons at the same time, acknowledging that most policies designed to address greenhouse gas mitigation have other, often at least equally important, rationales (e.g., related to objectives of development, sustainability, and equity). The term ..., this climate compatible strategy has gained support from policy-makers and citizens alike.

This CDKN case study, Catalysing sustainable tourism: The case of Chiang Mai, Thailand, by Kyoko Kusakabe, Pujan Shrestha and S. Kumar, of the Asian Institute of Technology and Trinnawat Suwanprik of the Chiang Mai Municipality, looks at how the NMT plan was developed, what characteristics of the planning process influenced its outcome, and what lessons the City of Chiang Mai has learned about climate compatible developmentClimate compatible development is development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by transitions to a low emissions, resilient future. Charting a path towards climate compatible development will be a major ... planning as a result.

Key messages:

  • Increasing greenhouse gasGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) from transport threaten the growing tourism industry in Chiang Mai. To address both climate and development concerns, the city government has advocated the use of non-motorised transport (NMT).
  • Climate mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) comes with co-benefits for local development. In addition to its potential to reduce greenhouse emissions, the NMT initiative addresses other issues such as traffic congestion, air quality, income generation for the poor and the long-term viability of the tourism industry.
  • Small but concrete steps toward climate mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) can create
good examples. The project on sustainable urban tourism catalysed planning for a more ambitious expansion of NMT in the city, as well as the adoption of more sustainable land-use practices and low-carbon action in other sectors.
  • This very positive local story nonetheless highlights some of
the tensions and trade-offs around green tourism: namely, that local initiatives may address emissions in situ, but not the emissions produced by tourists as they travel to the locality.

Download the full report, Catalysing sustainable tourism: The case of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

This case study is part of CDKN’s Inside stories on climate compatible development.