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Lower Zambezi is World’s First Carbon Neutral National Park

As world leaders deliberate the best path to take towards a carbon free energy future, a remote national park on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia is leading the way in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. The Lower Zambezi National Park has become the world’s first national park to achieve a carbon...

As world leaders deliberate the best path to take towards a carbon free energy future, a remote national park on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia is leading the way in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

The Lower Zambezi National Park has become the world’s first national park to achieve a carbon neutral status, showing a commitment to developing a sustainable energy future in the African tourism industry.

Photo by Lower Zambezi National Park

After a collaborative effort from all the operators in the park, the reserve has now reached a point where it generates little greenhouse gas emissions from its operations, and the unavoidable emissions are offset by purchasing Verified Carbon Units (VFU).

Inspired by efforts to achieve carbon neutral national parks from operations in the USA and UK, this Zambian initiative aims to show Zambian private sector tourism leadership, and their solidarity with those calling for global climate action.

Tourism is the world’s largest service sector industry, with significant energy, fuel and food production needs, and this announcement is sending a message to other operators worldwide to take incremental steps to reduce the emissions from tourism activities.

Photo by Baines’ River Camp

In Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP), every single tourism concessionaire based in the NP participated in this initiative. Even lodges based on the outskirts of the park funded the carbon neutrality of all the conservation management operations.

Operators took the further step of offsetting their head offices in Lusaka, Zambia’s Capital. Private sector operators voluntarily funded this milestone from their own internal revenues despite the fact that tourism suffered from a significant downturn in Zambia, and in other parts of Africa in 2015.

“The Lower Zambezi National Park is a world class tourism and conservation product, “ said Mr. Grant Cummings of Chiawa and Old Mondoro Camps, whose camps were the first to participate in this pioneering effort. “The operators are truly committed to this area, and to going the extra mile to run responsible, and sustainable products that contribute to Zambia’s position of offering some of the most fantastic and unique tourism experiences in Africa.”

The methodology used for carbon neutrality assessment followed international protocol, and lodges also worked to improve energy efficiency, for example, solar power investments which reduced generator use. After this, the remaining emissions from lodges, conservation operations (ZAWA and CLZ patrolling, cooking fuel and camp emissions) and fuel use in the park were offset using VCUs from the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project.

Photo by Lower Zambezi National Park

Each year, the operator’s carbon footprint will be assessed to continue with carbon neutrality and improvement of the emissions reduction strategy.

The aim is to strengthen the scheme over time and provide lodges and clients with a pathway to achieving higher levels of emissions reductions not generated in the park, but related to travel to the park.

Thirteen lodges participated in this effort, of which six lodges are located in the park: Chiawa Camp, Old Mondoro Bush Camp, Anabezi Camp, Mwambashi River Lodge, Sausage Tree and Potato Bush Camp. Impressively, lodges in the adjacent Chiawa Game Management Area, such as Baines River CampChongwe River Camp, Chongwe River House, Kasaka Lodge, and Tsika Island, Kanyemba Lodge, and Royal Zambezi Lodge partnered in the effort, even though some are not directly dependent on the park on a commercial basis.

Photo by Chiawa Camp

Mr. Kampamba Kombe, the Acting Director General at ZAWA, said: “This innovative achievement not only supports conservation and poverty reduction activities around the Lower Zambezi National Park, but also aims to promote Lower Zambezi National Park as a world class wildlife tourism destination”.

Hassan Sachedina, BCP’s Managing Director added that the achievement will hopefully pave the way for other parks and tourism operators in the world to become carbon neutral, raising the bar of what “eco-tourism” means.

“It shows that if small family-owned businesses in Africa are taking responsibility for their emissions, it should inspire the confidence of Fortune 500 companies to invest in developing the carbon markets through projects with significant conservation and poverty reduction benefits”.

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Meet the Author

Author Photo Paul Steyn
Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel and wildlife magazine, and now focuses on nature storytelling in all its forms. In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News . Contact: Follow Paul on Twitter or Instagram