The United Nations emitted 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2015, according to the organization's annual report of its greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest edition of the Greening the Blue report, released today, details the emissions from 66 United Nations entities, covering over 284,482 personnel around the world. This represents a 38 per cent increase in the number of agencies reporting their emissions and a 37 per cent increase in the number of staff covered by the inventory since reporting began in 2008.
The data shows that facilities accounted for 46 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, air travel for 40 per cent and other travel for 14 per cent. The data provides valuable information that can be used by individual UN entities and offices around the world to enable them to improve the management of their environmental impacts.
Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions continue across the UN. Over the course of 2015 a total of 28 UN system entities reported taking a systematic approach to improving their environmental performance, in the form of an environmental management system, a sustainability strategy or an emissions reduction strategy. Together, these entities account for 80 per cent of the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A total of 32 entities became climate neutral for their 2015 emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. Across the UN, offsetting amounted to 32 per cent of the total reported greenhouse gas emissions for 2015.
For the first time the report also includes details of the UN’s waste generation and management. A total of 44 UN entities provided waste data for 2015, revealing that per capita waste generation throughout 2015 was 547 kilograms.
In his introduction to this year’s report, the Secretary-General again highlighted his personal commitment to the work of making the UN more environmentally sustainable:
“As I prepare to step down as Secretary-General, I am encouraged by how far we have come in ‘walking the talk’, thanks to the enthusiasm of the staff of the United Nations for ‘Greening the Blue’. I am pleased to see growing staff commitment to climate neutrality and sustainability in the workplace, as well as consistent support for initiatives such as World Environment Day and Earth Hour.”
The report provides an update on progress in implementing the Climate Neutral UN Strategy, which was approved by the UN Chief Executive Board in 2007 and committed all 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 greenhouse gas emissions, to undertake efforts to reduce their emissions and to offset emissions ahead of 2020.
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 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.