United Nations reports its 2013 greenhouse gas emissions

Thu, 26/02/15

In 2013, the United Nations emitted about 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent - the same as 155,109 homes in the United States - according to the organization's annual publication dedicated to reporting its own impact on climate change.

The sixth edition of Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN, released today, details the emissions from 64 United Nations organizations, covering nearly 230,000 staff around the world.

As in previous years, over 50 per cent of emissions (898,368 tonnes of CO2) were from air travel, meaning this remains the biggest challenge to the United Nations in achieving climate neutrality - the achievement of net zero carbon emissions by balancing carbon released with an equivalent amount offset.

2014 saw progress on a number of fronts. A total of 56 out of 64 agencies reported updated data for their 2013 activities, an increase of two agencies on last year. The scope and depth of the reporting were also improved. Efforts to reduce emissions continued, as evidenced by case studies on the Greening the Blue website.

In September 2014 UN Secretary-General set a new challenge for the organizations of the UN System – to achieve climate neutrality by 2020. As a result, four additional organizations offset some or all of their emissions and many more are preparing to become climate neutral in 2015.

Examples of initiatives taken across the UN to reduce emissions in 2014 and highlighted in the report include:

• The UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) in Nepal completed an ambitious project to reduce its carbon footprint. Twenty-two megawatt hours of energy have been produced since a solar-energy project was completed in April 2014, meeting approximately 65% of the office’s annual energy requirements. ROSA has also put in place systems to reduce energy consumption such as installing double glazed windows and switching to a more fuel-efficient back-up generator.

• More than 100 UN staff in Rome did their bit for Clean Up The World Day on 27 September 2014. Armed with gloves, shovels and rakes, volunteers from IFAD, FAO, WFP, IDLO and Bioversity International gathered at Caffarella Park, where they filled bags with plastic wrappers, bottles and cans, cigarette butts, clothes, toys and a used-car tyre.

• The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has established an Environmental Management System in line with the DPKO/DFS Environmental Policy. The Mission has reduced the greenhouse gas emissions from diesel generators by installing five solar farms with a combined inverter capacity of 270 kW and this electricity provides 7% of the energy used by UNIFIL's headquarters.

• 2014 saw the launch of the UN’s first on-line sustainability tutorial for staff. Introducing the tutorial, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explained: “The new UN tutorial on sustainability shows how individuals and organizations can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, shrink our environmental footprint and cut costs. I count on colleagues across the UN system to follow the examples of Stick and Bean and contribute to a cleaner, healthier planet.”

The report is a product of the commitment made in 2007 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - and echoed by Heads of UN system organizations - to assess and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to consider options for offsetting.

In his introduction to this year’s report, the Secretary-General highlighted the links between the UN’s work in this area and the wider agenda of tackling climate change:

“Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN tells the story of an organization headed down the low-carbon pathway that we will all need to follow to reduce climate impacts and promote sustainable development. It is a time for all hands on deck. I will continue to engage with all leaders in the UN system to advance this effort and I look forward to continued progress in the coming years.”

The report provides an update on progress in implementing the 2007 Climate Neutral UN Strategy, which was approved the UN Chief Executive Board 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 analyze 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 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.

Click here to download the report. Any questions should be directed to Jacob Kurian, UNEP’s Expert of the Day at www.unep.org For more information contact: UNEP Newsdesk/Nairobi on Tel +254 20 7623088 or E-mail: [email protected] Isabella Marras, UNEP Sustainable United Nations facility (SUN), Tel:+41 22 9718260, Email: [email protected]