One of the UN’s main activities is to bring together stakeholders in meetings for negotiations, training, planning and assessments. The direct and indirect climate footprint of meetings can be large, depending on the location of the meeting, time of year, number of participants, accommodation, catering and preparation of meeting materials. Typically, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from meetings is travel by participants. Other sources include use of heating, cooling and electricity at the meeting venue and hotels, and (indirectly) printing of meeting documents, catering, and local transport.
The UN Green Meetings Guide was released in early 2009, providing advice and checklists on how to minimize the environmental impact of meetings. Twelve UN organizations have already started to organize at least some of their meetings as green meetings. Prominent examples include the World Food Summit organized in Rome by FAO in 2008, UNFCCC’s COP 14 in Poznan and UNEP’s Global Environment Forum in Monaco the same year, and the Governing Council in Nairobi in 2009.
In these meetings measures were implemented such as on demand printing, pooling of transport for meeting delegates, avoidance of excessive cooling of meeting rooms, web-casting of sessions, video presentation by some delegates from their home countries, provision of organic food and use of recyclable cups. The travel-related climate footprint of participants paid for by the organization was compensated for through purchase of offsets.
For UNFCCC COP15 in Copenhagen virtual presence teleconferencing rooms connected to similar rooms around the world have been set-up, to allow delegations and other participants to organize virtual face-to-face meetings with colleagues and experts abroad without requiring them to come to Copenhagen.
Simply because of the very large number of meetings organized by the UN every year, paying more attention to minimizing the climate footprint and other negative environmental impact from meetings would have a large cumulative impact. This is expected to remain one of the focus areas for emissions-reductions at the UN in the coming years.
You can download the Green Meetings Guide here.
Check out what other UN organizations have been doing to green their meetings.