As the regional arm of the United Nations, ESCAP plays a unique role as the only intergovernmental forum for all countries and territories of the Asian and Pacific region. ESCAP’s mission is to serve as the regional hub to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in the region through programmes on Macroeconomic Policy and Development, Trade and Investment, Transport, Environment and Development, Information, Communications, Space Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction, Social Development, and Statistics. ESCAP provides administrative and facilities services to all UN agencies located at the UN Compound in Bangkok thus playing a key role in the environmental sustainability of UN operations in the country.
Alignment with the Strategy for sustainability management in the United Nations system, 2020–2030
In alignment with the UN strategy for sustainability management, ESCAP has:
- Been reporting its emissions since 2010 and supported the GHG reporting of UN entities located at its compound
- Implemented an EMS since 2018
- Set specific objectives and targets for its environmental management (energy, waste, water, travel, meetings)
- Included green procurement specifications into large procurement exercises
EMS AND REDUCTION EFFORTS
In 2018, ESCAP established an Environmental Management System for its facilities and operations to mainstream and expand its environmental work. The EMS provides a systematic approach towards emission reduction and improves environmental sustainability in the following areas: energy, waste, water, meetings, and travel. All UN agencies located at the UN Compound in Bangkok are part of the EMS governance structure to ensure a One-UN approach and stakeholder involvement.
Since 2002, ESCAP has implemented a series of energy efficiency projects that have enabled ESCAP HQ to reduce the UN Compound’s total energy consumption by 30 % between 2003 and 2018. This improvement of energy efficiency brought about the decrease of electricity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from 7,590 to 5,514 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year during the same period. This was achieved through building technical reviews and the corresponding retrofit projects based on a plan of progressive system improvements, with the replacement of building plant, machinery and equipment and the associated operating procedures of building systems. The reductions have primarily come from the air-conditioning systems, as cooling is required year round in Bangkok.
Energy saving projects include renovation and automation of elevators at the UN complex with regenerative braking, replacement of air handling units, pumps (chilled and condenser water), improvement of chiller operation, condenser piping and cooling tower upgrades, installation of energy efficient lighting, window seal replacement, installation of solar panels and wind turbines, to name but few. ESCAP has achieved these improvements through the regular budget system and thus have been incremental over the years.
With the Seismic Mitigation and Life Cycle Project injecting significant funds over the coming few years, we will implement many green design items within the renovation. This should result in the Secretariat building’s energy efficiency reducing its consumption by 16+% once the renovations are completed.
ESCAP has offset both its 2017 and 2018 GHG emissions by purchasing carbon emission reduction credits from certified projects in the region (14,000 CERs). In 2017, ESCAP organised its first carbon neutral meeting and developed a calculator (ECO tool) to estimate its meeting emissions and offset them. Since the establishment of the EMS in April 2018, the organisation has committed to offset all its main intergovernmental meetings’ emissions in its first EMS cycle (2018-2022). In 2019, ESCAP organised four climate neutral meetings.
Waste is among the focus areas of ESCAP’s environmental action. The main highlights are:
- Ban of single use catering items (beyond plastics). 9 tons of waste prevented annually.
- Replacement of staff individual bins with centralized recycling stations by work area to boost recycling (over 50% recycling is expected from 2021).
- Identification of reuse, composting, and recycling options for most waste items supporting local communities and recyclers.
- Implementation of environmental guidelines for waste management for onsite construction and renovation works.
ESCAP has established an accurate waste monitoring system at the HQ compound in Bangkok. Waste is recorded and sorted by type and building floor daily. In 2019, ESCAP recycled about 31% of all waste. ESCAP’s work on waste started in 2017, when the emphasis was put on food waste prevention and biomass based food containers.
Since then, ESCAP has been displaying daily food waste quantities at the cafeteria entrance to sensitize staff on the need for reduced food waste and the impact of daily food choices. In 2018, the focus was shifted to preventing waste from catering operations. Over a 6-month period ESCAP phased out paper cups, plastic containers, plastic straws, plastic bags, thin film plastics, and plastic bottles offering reusable options to staff and visitors.
The initiative goes beyond plastics, targeting all unnecessary single-use items used for catering operations, and helps to save up to 9 tons of mixed waste annually.
In 2020, ESCAP started composting all its organic waste by sending it to local farmers for reuse as compost and animal feed. Centralized waste recycling stations were installed in all work areas and replaced individual bins under staff desks. These are helping the organization prevent waste contamination, recycle more, and raise staff awareness of the need to segregate and reduce waste. ESCAP found recycling options for almost all its waste categories and is expected to exceed its initial target of 50% recycling by 2022.
Besides catering waste, ESCAP is also targeting construction waste by including waste management and prevention requirements in our construction projects and reporting its annual construction waste to GtB.
WATER AND WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT
ESCAP tracks and reports its water consumption daily, monthly and annually. Water meters are installed, as well as submeters to measure the cooling towers’ usage. Based on the information collected, strategies were implemented to reduce the water usage especially regarding the HVAC system (Cooling towers account for 42% of ESCAP water consumption). HVAC operating hours were reduced, materials upgraded, reducing the amount of water used by 18% in three years. Wastewater is collected and treated before reuse for gardening purposes. ESCAP wastewater quality is regularly tested by specialised contractors to ensure compliance with local regulations and prevent any harm to the environment.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES
ESCAP developed a methodology to calculate its meeting emissions which covers all emissions from travel, accommodation, venue, food, waste and local transport. The goal is to monitor the trends in meeting emissions in ESCAP and implement effective emission reduction strategies, while raising awareness among UN staff and meeting participants. In collaboration with UN Environment, emphasis is being put into proposing more sustainable menus for events and greening the compound’s catering operations. An Earth Hour Campaign is implemented daily at ESCAP Compound, switching off office lights during the lunch break. This is expected to save up to 90 tons of CO2 in a year and raise staff awareness. Additionally, photocopiers and printers have been replaced with multifunction network printers to improve paper use monitoring and reduce paper consumption.
After the establishment of the EMS for the entire UN Compound, ESCAP is committed to continue with the implementation of the identified environmental actions and to regularly review its environmental management in compliance with ISO 14001 standard. This will help the organisation achieve continual improvement in its environmental performance. ESCAP has also supported the establishment of a sustainability task force comprising UN agencies and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) in Bangkok outside the ESCAP compound. The task force serves as a platform to share best practices and move forward as One-UN in the greening of UN operations and facilities in the Country.
Sustainability at ESCAP
ESCAP and the 2030 Agenda
Recycling video (2020)
Cycling to work video (2019)
Single-use waste video (2018)