UNITAR: Where There's A Will, There's A Way

Thu, 01/04/10

Over the period of a few months in autumn 2008, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) drafted its 2009/10 Climate Neutral Policy, completed a first inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, set measurable emissions-reduction targets, and introduced a number of measures to reduce its climate impact. What made such rapid process possible?

UNITAR’s Executive Director, Carlos Lopes, simply took the decision by the UN Chief Executives’ Board on Coordination (CEB) literally and made it a strategic priority for the Institute to become climate neutral. A Climate Neutral Task Force was set up, headed by the Associate Director of Environment and comprising staff from the Climate Change Programme and the Administration and Finance Section to ensure swift implementation. The Task Force meets at least once a quarter and regular briefings occur with the Executive Directors to review progress and challenges.

The Climate Neutral Policy was communicated through an administrative circular, making it binding across the Institute. The Policy states that all 2008 emissions emanating from staff travel and headquarters office operations will be offset. In 2009 the target was to offset all greenhouse gas emissions from all office locations and staff travel, and half the emissions from the travel of workshop participants and trainees. In 2010 all of UNITAR’s operations, including emissions from all workshop participants, will be offset.

An important aspect of the Climate Neutral Policy is that it does not comprise the ability of the Institute to meet increasing demand for its training services. This is achieved by setting a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions per person trained and unit of training delivered rather than absolute emissions-reduction benchmarks. The target is to halve emissions by 2012 per unit of training delivered, using 2009 data as a baseline. Enhancing the use of technology-supported learning, such as e learning and videoconferencing, is an important factor in reaching this target.