Travel is the major source of greenhouse gas emissions in most UN organizations, typically 50-60% but in some cases up to 90% of total emissions. This includes official travel by staff, and travel by meeting participants, consultants and experts the cost of which is paid for by the organization.
In 2008, 31 UN system organizations had implemented measures of some kind to reduce the climate footprint of their travel. Measures include:
There is a clear trend within the UN for an increasing number of organizations to seek ways to cutting travel, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs. While staff travel is essential for the UN to fulfill its mandate, past and current experience shows that there is room for improvement both in the number of missions and the way travel is undertaken.
In support of this effort a guide to sustainable travel in the UN is planned for release in 2010 and a help desk has been established to assist UN organizations in developing sustainable travel strategies. The Inter-Agency Travel Network (IATN) is also reviewing how sustainable travel can be supported through information exchange on best practices, standard requirements on travel agents, and possibly revision of existing travel regulations.
The 2008 greenhouse gas inventories show that organizations with significant field operations tend to have larger vehicle fleets and a high proportion of emissions from vehicles, compared to other organizations. Organizations with large vehicle fleets are working to reduce emissions from ground transport: WHO and WFP, for instance, are increasing the share of hybrid vehicles in their fleets. UNWRA and several other organizations are including fuel efficiency as a criterion in procurement of new vehicles. The UN Web Buy site (the procurement portal developed by UNOPS and accessible by all UN agencies) now includes such information for all listed vehicles. WFP is also training all its drivers in fuel-efficient driving, and monitoring the fuel consumption of each vehicle.
Sustainable commuting is supported by a number of organizations. Examples range from providing staff with subsidized tickets for local transport and electric chargers for electric scooters to reserving parking space for car pools. Several organizations have increased the parking area available for bicycles.
You can find a full list of travel resources and publications here.
In a few organizations specific targets have been adopted to reduce travel, including UNAIDS (25% cut in Secretariat travel in 2010–11) and UNIDO (30% cut in directors’ travel in 2009). You can see further details and examples in the case studies section.