Some of the World's Best Ethical Destinations
By : Ethical Traveler

In this first phase of our process, we consider country scores from a variety of databases related to our three categories, using information from sources like Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Reporters Without Borders, UNICEF, the World Bank and LGBT resources. After identifying about 25 "short list" performers we turn to detailed case research, focusing on actions these governments have taken over the past year to improve (or, in some cases, weaken) policies and practices in their countries. We use many strategies to finalize our list-including engagement with civic leaders, discussions with travelers and reviews of local English-language media.

For a country to make our list, of course, it must excel in more than metrics. Each Ethical Destination also offers unspoiled natural beauty, great outdoor activities and the opportunity to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.

Please note that this report is not an exhaustive explanation of our methodology, but an overview of how we conduct our research. An appendix listing our sources will be sent upon request.1

Environmental protection

In evaluating each country's level of environmental protection, we look at indicators of environmental health, preservation of resources and cultivation of beneficial, sustainable practices. Our main resource is the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center's (SEDAC) Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a joint initiative between the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network. The index uses indicators focused on (i) reducing environmental stresses on human health and (ii) promoting ecosystem vitality and sound natural resource management, allowing us to measure these countries against 25 separate indicators of environmental responsibility.

Tonga scored highest in environmental protection among the Ethical Destinations, followed by Panama. Uruguay, Cabo Verde and Mongolia have made the most progress in the EPI ranking over the last year.

Many of the 2016 Ethical Destinations are frontrunners and advocates of a strong strategy to tackle climate change. In particular, island states Samoa, Tonga, FS Micronesia, Grenada and Tuvalu-all members of the Small Island Developing States coalition-have been pushing for greater action on climate change. Tuvalu is a member of The Vulnerable 20 (V20), created to share and scale up innovative approaches to climate finance developed by those countries most affected by climate change.

The countries that have been named 2016 Ethical Destinations have all carried out significant efforts to switch to green energy. Cabo Verde aims to draw 50% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Dominica continues to lead the Caribbean Islands in the development of geothermal electricity, and has set the goal to rely fully on renewable energy. The country is even expecting to supply energy to other Caribbean countries. Currently 500,000 people, including 70% of Mongolia's herders, have modern electricity generated through solar power. Samoa launched new solar plants in 2015 to achieve its plans of 100% sustainable energy by 2017. Additionally, Tuvalu is trying to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels by launching new solar plants. FS Micronesia is aiming to increase the share of renewable energy to at least 30% by 2020. While Tonga's energy in 2011 still depended on fossil fuels, the nation aspires to generate 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020 and is constructing solar arrays on nine outer islands. The top performer in green energy, however, is Uruguay. Uruguay supplied 90% of its electricity from renewable sources this year, and is also working toward powering all public transport with electric energy, as well as creating the world's first fully sustainable airport.

Panama has intensified its reforestation efforts, encouraging farmers to create sustainable tropical ecosystems. Several large-scale reforestation programs are being carried out or planned.

Many of the Ethical Destinations moved to protect more of their unique flora and fauna by establishing protected areas. FS Micronesia passed the protection of 78 acres of forested wetland in the Yela Valley, part of the larger plan to preserve the entire 1,400-acre valley. Tonga did its part by creating more national marine reserves. Grenada is taking action to protect and regenerate its coral reefs by creating coral nurseries. Mongolia has also set aside almost 15% of its land in protected areas like Mongol Daguur and the Khustain National Park.

However, even our Ethical Destinations do not have perfect environmental records. In Panama, for instance, a hydroelectric dam was temporarily suspended over non-compliance with environmental impact assessment, but then overturned by the Supreme Court-even though many believe that this project will threaten the local water and displace many indigenous people. Uruguay needs to protect its savannas, which are threatened by large-scale ranching. Mongolia's mining boom threatens protected areas, and even though the government has taken conservation measures, these are not sufficiently enforced. Fortunately, there is growing awareness in Mongolia about mining's negative impact on the environment.

Mongolia's mining activities and their impact will be monitored this year, and will play an important role in determining if Mongolia will keep its spot in 2017. Botswana, for instance, which has enforced a trophy-hunting ban and has the largest fraction of land under formal conservation of any country in the world, was not included as a 2016 Ethical Destination because of the impact of its mining activities in protected areas (for additional information on mining and its impact, see Destination of Interest: Botswana).
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