Cutting down on travel can make a big difference to the carbon footprint of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). That's why its directors, leading from the top, agreed to commit themselves to cutting their own travel by as much as 30% in 2009. Even the Director General, Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, included himself in this collective pledge.
The inconvenient truth is that travel is essential to UNIDO's work, but represents 61% of its total greenhouse gas emissions. This has made it a key issue in the UNIDO Climate Team's search for ways of reducing the carbon footprint of the organization, without adversely affecting its performance. The directors' pledge was an early success. Other initiatives from the Climate Team have focused on how staff travel is authorized.
Changes to the Travel Authorization form now mean that every time anyone travels, they are informed of their travel-related greenhouse gas emissions over the last 12 months. Even before they travel, staff must look into alternatives such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing, and the videoconferencing facilities at UNIDO headquarters in Vienna have been upgraded to make e-communications more attractive.
Financial incentives have been introduced to encourage economy class travel even for flights of over nine hours (which ordinarily in the UN are booked as business class). If UNIDO staff choose to travel economy class on these occasions, they are allowed to retain the financial savings for the program or project, to stretch their available budget further.
The UNIDO travel policy also restricts the number of staff allowed to go on the same mission; the usual limit is two, with possible exceptions (up to a maximum of 30 for important conferences) requiring the Director General's approval.
The UNIDO Climate Team is planning more changes to the travel system in the coming years, while trying not to increase the administrative burden on staff. In its campaigns to raise awareness of the threats posed by climate change, it is already finding that there is genuine interest in the Climate Neutral UN campaign, and that UNIDO staff are keen to see further environmental considerations taken into account in the way the organization operates. Many have already contributed ideas through a suggestion box set up on the UNIDO intranet site.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges the global community has ever faced and the UN must lead by example in combating climate change. To credibly aid the sustained development of nations it must be one of UNIDO’s priorities to incorporate the issue of climate change into its daily operations. The UNIDO Climate Team is devoted to integrating environmental considerations into UNIDO’s work and aims to continuously develop and evaluate new ideas to move the Organisation towards more sustainable business practices and keep UNIDO at the forefront of the UN Climate Neutral effort.” - The UNIDO Climate Team