Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN

Thu, 27/02/14

The United Nations today released details of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 2012 in the 5th annual edition of the publication - Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN.

The report provides details on the emissions from 64 UN system organizations, covering more than 220,000 staff and hundreds of locations worldwide. Greenhouse gas emissions totaled 1.71 million tonnes CO2eq across the UN system in 2012 – the same as the annual emissions resulting from the energy consumption of approximately 85,000 US homes.1

As in previous years, over 50 percent of emissions are from air travel (0.87 million tonnes CO2eq), meaning this remains the biggest challenge to the organization in achieving climate neutrality.

Now in its fifth year, the greenhouse gas emissions reporting process is more comprehensive than ever, presenting a broad picture of the UN system covering hundreds of facilities and locations worldwide. The focus in the coming years will be to analyze the depth of the report, improve accuracy and consistency between organizations, and expanding to include other environmental impacts such as waste management and water consumption.

The publication is further proof of the commitment made in 2007 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of UN system organizations to estimate and reduce the GHG emissions of UN system facilities and operations and consider options for offsetting.

In his opening messages to the publication, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:

“I am heartened by the commitment of each UN organization to improve its environmental performance and to do so collaboratively as ‘One UN’. I reiterate my gratitude to the leaders of UN agencies and their staff for their dedication to ‘greening the blue’.”

In addition to a breakdown of the emissions of each organization, the report contains a selection of case studies demonstrating the measures undertaken to reduce the UN’s carbon footprint in 2012. Highlights include:

  • UNOPS being awarded ISO 14001 certification following the development of an Environmental Management System to help staff determine how construction projects should handle waste, make the best use of natural resources and protect the environment.
  • ITU saving US$ 9 million and reducing 24 million kilograms of CO2 following the introduction of a multilingual, interactive remote meeting service.
  • IFC’s work to reduce it’s waste footprint, including a Global Waste Challenge and the introduction of a new compost and recycling programme in its Washington headquarters, which increased composting and recycling rates from 35% to 93%.
  • The latest UNRWA fuel efficiency measure – Fleetlog – which has enabled more detailed analysis of fleet usage patterns and ensured resources were being used to maximum efficiency – not only reducing emissions but also saving $70,000 on fuel.



The report provides an update on progress in implementing the 2007 UN Climate Neutral Strategy which was approved by the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and committed the UN Secretariat and all UN agencies, funds and programmes to move towards climate neutrality within the wider context of greening the UN.

Specifically, the Strategy requires UN bodies to estimate their GHG emissions, to undertake efforts to reduce their emissions to the greatest extent possible and to analyse the cost implications of purchasing carbon offsets.

The emissions calculations in the report were compiled using internationally recognized guidance based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used methodology developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The UN GHG inventory includes emissions from all activities that are under the direct financial control of the organization, such as the heating and cooling of buildings and the travel of its staff members.

Download the report


Categories: Buildings, Energy, Travel