The UN today launched its third annual ‘Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN’ report, detailing the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2010 and it’s ongoing efforts to measure and reduce them.
The report reveals the UN’s 2010 emissions for 54 entities in hundreds of locations and over 200,000 employees. It shows that the UN’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 1.8 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalent. This is the same amount of carbon sequestered annually by 383,795 acres of pine or fir forests, an area the size of the Faroe Islands.
Over 50 percent of the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions are from air travel (4.2 tonnes per capita) making this the biggest challenge for the organization in reducing its overall emissions.
In the report, launched on the occasion of Earth Day 2012, the UN Secretary-General says:
“The United Nations system is strongly committed to leading by example and ensuring that our operations are continuously monitored and improved - not just in terms of what we deliver, but also how we deliver. We are also looking to this year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development - Rio+20 - to generate ideas that will energize sustainability efforts worldwide.”
In his foreword to the report, the Secretary-General highlights the efforts which are on-going across the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from UN operations. He also emphasizes the special importance of renewing efforts in 2012:
The report details a wide range of actions that have been taken across the UN system to improve resource efficiency and cut the organization’s emissions. These include encouraging train journeys over air travel, providing bicycles for staff members, installing efficient lighting systems in UN offices or using e-conferencing instead of traveling to meetings.
The report shows progress on implementation of UN’s Climate Neutral Strategy, which was approved by the UN Chief Executive Board in 2007. The strategy commits all agencies, funds and programmes to move towards climate neutrality within the wider context of greening the UN, and requires all UN bodies to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions, undertake efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and analyze the cost implications of purchasing carbon offsets.
As part of these efforts, the Greening the Blue initiativewas launched in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability throughout the UN system and to encourage staff members to take an active role in reducing the organization’s carbon emissions.
The emissions calculations used in the latest report have been compiled using internationally recognised 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 greenhouse gas 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 staff members.
How the Blue was Greened
As well as reporting the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2010, the report highlights recent greening efforts and details the myriad ways in which UN organizations and staff continued efforts to reduce their carbon emissions in 2011.
Towards a zero carbon future
Though the UN has come a long way, the report acknowledges that much still remains to be done.
“The process of moving the UN towards climate neutrality gives us direct experience of the complexities associated with preparing a large international organization for a green economy. But we recognise that this work is vital for delivering sustainable development, and has the potential to realise the best of human ingenuity and creativity”, writes Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, in the report’s preface.
“By championing a climate neutral UN the various organizations, agencies, programmes and funds are becoming part of a global community developing innovative solutions and sharing lessons learnt on the challenges and opportunities at hand,” added Mr. Steiner.
The report concludes that the UN must establish itself as a pioneer in working towards establishing a green economy and doing all it can to move the world towards sustainable energy.
Rio +20 will be a vital step in encouraging the world to embrace a better environment, society and economy.
Further details about the process and the actions of individual organizations are available at www.greeningtheblue.org.