United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)


HQ: Bonn, Germany

Focal Point: Dragoslav Jovanović

Email: djovanovic [at] unfccc.int


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions


Key Figures: Waste


Key Figures: Water


Executive Secretary's Message


“I’m pleased to report that UN Climate Change was, once again, climate neutral in 2017. This is the fourth-straight year our organization has reduced its overall emissions. This is a significant accomplishment and I congratulate all staff members for their efforts and leadership.

Our work, however, extends far beyond our home offices in Bonn into the greater UN network. For example, we work with UN Environment to help other UN organizations become climate neutral. We also co-chair the International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications (IAMLADP) Task Force on Sustainable Meetings, and have helped other organizations organize more sustainable meetings as well.

Furthermore, we’ve helped 27 sister agencies offset emissions equal to more than 20 per cent of the UN’s carbon footprint. We’re also pleased the last three UN Climate Change conferences have been climate-neutral, were organized sustainably, and third-party certified under ISO 20121—which is the international standard for sustainable event management created by the International Organization for Standardization—and EMAS (the EU’s environmental management system) respectively. This is a first for the UN network.

Through our Climate Neutral Now initiative we have received more than 140 pledges from companies, sub-national authorities and other organizations who have pledged to move towards climate neutrality by measuring, reducing and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions. This is an important contribution to our overall goal of achieving climate neutrality at a global level.

We also continue to highlight transformative climate projects through our Momentum for Change initiative and maintain a record of public commitments by non-Party stakeholders, including cities, states, regions, territories, business and investors through NAZCA.

While we’ve made significant progress at UN Climate Change to reduce emissions and will continue encouraging other organizations to do the same, we recognize challenges remain. We will therefore continue working here in Bonn and throughout the entire UN family to both lead by example and encourage all people to achieve a climate-neutral future.”

Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC




The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Convention enjoys near universal membership, with 194 countries having ratified.


Experience so far


The UN Climate Change secretariat has been monitoring the greenhouse gas emissions from its headquarters and travel operations and taking measures to reduce them for many years already.

At its headquarters, the secretariat’s offices are powered by electricity solely from renewable sources – which is key to any effective emission reduction. Together with a number of energy and resource-saving measures, this has led to a sharp cut in emissions from office operations to currently less than 5% of the secretariat’s overall carbon footprint.

The remaining 95% of the footprint are generated by the travel of secretariat-funded participants coming to UN Climate Change meetings and of secretariat staff. This is an inevitable challenge, given that support to the intergovernmental negotiations is at the core of the secretariat’s mandate. Measures taken to address this include avoidance of travel especially by secretariat staff, facilitated also by the UN Climate Change Parties’ decision to hold as many UN Climate Change meetings as possible at the seat of the secretariat. Where travel is unavoidable, preference is given to less carbon-intensive ways of travelling such as by train or in economy class. Not all of these measures are always met with enthusiasm, so they need to be accompanied by awareness-raising among travelers as well as, sometimes, among donors. 

As the final step towards climate neutrality, the UN Climate Change secretariat has offset, on an annual basis since 2012, the balance of emissions from its unavoidable activities by purchasing and cancelling Adaptation Fund Certified Emission Reductions. Instrumental in this has been the budgetary authorization from UN Climate Change Parties to fund reduction and offsetting efforts.

Beyond its own boundaries, the secretariat has been able to effectively advise and assist governments who host large UN Climate Change conferences in measuring and reducing these events’ footprints. Also, since 2005, it has become standard practice for many host countries to offset the remaining balance of related emissions, including that of all participants’ travel to the venue.

Following the successful third-party certification of the sustainability management systems of COP 21 and COP 22 under the ISO 20121 standard for sustainability management systems, the environmental performance of COP 23 was certified under EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme), an environmental management system based on an EU regulation. EMAS provided the overall framework for the sustainable organization of the sessions, covering aspects such as energy and resource efficiency, legal compliance and stakeholder engagement. The Sustainable conference website for COP 23 highlights many good practices and reference documents. A video on the sustainable organization of UN Climate Change conferences is available here.

In addition, the UN Climate Change secretariat has advocated emissions reduction and offsetting measures within the UN system, and helped many other UN agencies become climate-neutral. Since 2015, the secretariat has offered a platform for every individual or organization around the world to become Climate Neutral Now!, and through co-chairing the IAMLADP Task Force on Sustainable Meetings UNFCCC it has spread the word and supported other UN bodies with the organization of sustainable meetings.


EMS and Reduction efforts


Headquarters operations:

  • 100% electricity from renewable sources
  • HQ building built and operated to high environmental standards: partly “zero emission”, hydro-geo-thermal energy supplemented by district heating, solar power, local natural, smart building technology control systems, etc.
  • Ongoing replacement/upgrade and use of office equipment to higher energy efficiency: lighting, cars, bicycles, shared printers not individual, …
  • Materials and waste: No plastic policy (ban of plastic bottles and containers); 100% recycled or certified paper; written-off IT equipment donated for reuse before recycling; waste separation, recycling, incineration of residuals, no landfilling
  • Replacement of hardcopy with on-line publications and official documents
  • Sustainable Procurement: Vendor and product sustainability are obligatory selection criteria; e.g., local transportation provider offsets all its emissions
  • Ongoing awareness-raising among staff
  • Preferential tickets for staff to use public transportation to commute to work (“job ticket”)

Travel activities:

  • Avoidance of staff travel by organizing UN Climate Change meetings at the seat of the secretariat as a default
  • Strict limit on number of staff representing the secretariat at external meetings
  • Avoidance of travel through tele-, video- and on-line conferencing, e.g., for most job interviews, many training activities, some meetings of constituted bodies, etc.
  • Travel policy conducive to emission reductions through most efficient mode of travel, most direct routing, incentives for voluntary downgrades
  • Train travel compulsory for all trips of less than 6 hours’ duration (approx. 500 km)
  • Economy class air travel compulsory for all trips of less than 11 hours’ duration
  • Maximum train and/or economy class travel of staff to conferences, training, etc., irrespective of duration of travel

Conference activities:

  • Standard provision on environmental sustainability in host country agreements for conferences
  • Systematic support to host countries in measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of UN Climate Change conferences
  • Offsetting the remaining balance is now standard practice for host governments, often including for all participants’ travel


  • Approval of use of budgetary resources for emission reduction investments and offsets



In 2012, the UN Climate Change secretariat launched its offsetting scheme and thereby became one of the first five UN agencies to achieve full climate neutrality!

After avoiding carbon-intensive headquarters and travel activities and reducing the footprint of the remaining ones, the secretariat still generates between 4,000 and 6,000 tons CO2eq per year. To offset this balance, it purchases and cancels Adaptation Fund CERs on an annual basis.

Adaptation Fund CERs were selected because they serve two important goals. First, they originate from the widest cross-section of all CDM projects, globally and indiscriminately. Second, the Adaptation Fund finances work in those countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. In effect, Adaptation Fund CERs are the only credits that benefit efforts to both mitigate climate change and adapt to it.

In addition, host countries of UN Climate Change Conferences of Parties have established the practice of compensating for the carbon footprint of all COPs since 2005.. The UN Climate Change secretariat also assists many UN agencies in offsetting their footprints and provides a convenient way to offset for everyone, everywhere


Waste management


The UN Climate Change secretariat follows the UN methodology for measuring and reporting on waste.

At the UN Climate Change secretariat, recyclable materials are separated and processed in recycling plants, while the residual portion is incinerated for power generation. No waste goes into landfills. Hazardous and special waste is collected and handled separately. Written-off IT equipment is donated for reuse before recycling.


Water Management


The UN Climate Change secretariat follows the UN methodology for measuring and reporting on water consumption. Water saving systems are installed in bathrooms. Outdoor areas are watered only exceptionally. 


Next steps


In the years to come, the UN Climate Change secretariat will maintain its climate neutrality. It will continue to cut emissions so that as little as possible remains to be compensated through the offsetting scheme with the Adaptation Fund.

The focus of reduction efforts will be in the area of travel where most emissions are generated. Next steps include increasing the use of virtual meeting, communication and collaboration tools to avoid travel; and further concentrating UN Climate Change meetings and workshops at the seat of the UN Climate Change secretariat to minimize travel by UNFCCC secretariat staff.

A second important opportunity is the new office building for over 300 staff that is under construction, with completion scheduled for 2020. The goal is to attain the Gold Certificate under “BNB”, the German sustainable construction and building standard.

Thirdly, emphasis will be put on a more systematic approach to reducing and offsetting emissions related to UN Climate Change conferences and meetings, including smaller ones that are not yet fully climate-neutral.

The UN Climate Change secretariat is in the process of designing an Environmental Management System that will comply with ISO 14001, and aspires to go for certification in the not too distant future.

As a hub where UN and international efforts to combat climate change are bundled, the UN Climate Change secretariat cannot help but reach out beyond its boundaries, too. It will enhance and promote its offers to the UN system, but also to businesses and individuals around the globe, to achieve the goal of climate neutrality. One such initiative is the design of a Sustainable Events Tool to support event organizers globally to increase the sustainability of its meetings and conferences. The NAZCA platform has recently been relaunched and it will increase its reach. Furthermore, the secretariat’s Global Climate Action team continues to engage non-State actors through additional initiatives such as Momentum for Change, Action for Climate Empowerment and the Marrakech Partnership.


Find out more about UNFCCC and sustainability

UNFCCC case studies