When travel is by far your biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions, how much can be cut? At the UNAIDS programme the Executive Director has committed to reducing travel by 25% over the next biennium across the whole organization – where it currently accounts for 83% of the total climate footprint for UNAIDS offices in Geneva, New York, Washington DC and Brussels.
The next question, of course, is how that reduction can best be achieved. It's partly just a matter of sensible travel policies, backed up by strict compliance – with any exceptions requiring a memo of justification from the Department/Regional Director to the Deputy Executive Director for approval. All air travel requires the same specific justification.
UNAIDS also carefully controls the duplication of journeys. No more than two staff members may normally go on the same mission or to the same meeting (in addition to the Executive Director or one of the Department Directors). Meetings requiring travel by more than 25 staff/participants need the Executive Director's approval, based on a detailed list and justification. The number of travel days per staff member in a year is limited to a maximum of 21, and a visit of more than five working days to any one city requires a detailed explanation to be submitted with the travel plan.
Alongside the tightening up of the travel rules, there has also been a big push to make videoconferencing a better alternative option. Since 2008 videoconferencing facilities have been set up in all conference rooms at UNAIDS headquarters, and in the Regional Support Offices. An IP network has also been established to facilitate voice and video communications between all major offices. As a result, staff increasingly use videoconferencing rather than flying.