Delegate perceptions and responsible environmental behaviour at the COP 17 event.
The attitudes, perceptions and environmentally responsible behaviour of delegates (tourists) at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an area in which little or no academic research was undertaken from an academic, tourism perspective. This dissertation presents the results of a Green Survey undertaken during this climate change conference, focusing on the attitudes, perceptions and responsible practices of delegates in order to obtain a better understanding of tourism related impacts. Forms of tourism used as the conceptual basis were MICE, event tourism, sustainable tourism and responsible tourism integrated with socio-psychological behavioural theories. COP 17 was held in Durban (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) from the 28 November to 8 December, 2011 over 14 days. It was one of the many high-level international meetings on climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Delegates involved in the formal discussions included representatives of the world's governments, international organisations and civil society. Several thousand attendees (visitors and local residents) participated in separate discussions and events organised by civil society to highlight environmental and climate injustices and the concerns of the poor. Interviews were conducted at the conference venues, where COP 17 was held, that is, the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC). The study endeavoured to understand the socio-economic and demographic profile of delegates. An additional objective was to examine the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of delegates on various environmental issues related to climate change and its impact on tourism. An attempt was also made to determine whether there were any significant relationships between socio- demographic variables, knowledge and attitudes/ perceptions, and the behaviour of delegates. A structured questionnaire survey of 825 official delegates was undertaken and face-to-face interviews were conducted. The research survey used a non-probability, purposive, spatially-based systematic sampling techniques. The interviews were conducted in the ICC precinct (open spaces) and the first delegate was purposively selected. Subsequently, every fifteenth respondent was interviewed. The results indicate that despite delegates’ awareness of environmental best practices and having a good knowledge of environmental issues, there was inconsistency in behaviour due to a range of factors such as situational, internal and external aspects. Moreover, there was a gap in environmental behaviour practiced at home and whilst travelling. The majority of the delegates agreed that COP 17 had major environmental impacts in terms of energy consumption, air pollution, solid waste and overconsumption of water. Most respondents also stated that they engaged in environmentally responsible practices sometimes or always. It was also found that education had a significant relationship (p=0.000) on all environmental best practices whilst age and gender was only related to certain best practices. Additionally, knowledge of a few environment issues was significantly related to certain environmental best practices. Lastly, age was strongly related to the most number of behavioural practices and knowledge had significant relationships to numerous behavioural practices at home and while at the tourist destination. The study shows that socio-demographic variables, such as level of education, were important determinants of COP 17 delegates’ attitudes and environmentally friendly practices whilst traveling and at home.