Leading by Example: The UN goes Green

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The latest edition of the Greening the Blue report by the United Nations team dedicated to helping UN agencies go green was released yesterday. The report shows a record number of UN entities – 39 – that were climate neutral for 2016!

This is a great step by the UN towards leading by example. For sure more can always be done, but action has to start somewhere. Cutting emission and offsetting them is not easy, specially in the face of mounting global humanitarian disasters and crises, and dwindling resources. This shows that the UN is willing to lead by example, the question we must ask ourselves should be: are we?

“The Greening the Blue report, the UN’s annual report on its environmental impacts, details the environmental impacts of the UN system’s facilities and operations in 2016. The report includes data from 67 entities that reported their greenhouse gas emissions for 2016, covering 264,221 personnel.”

See press release below:

THU, 02/11/17

The data reveals that the UN emitted 1.90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) in 2016 – an average of 7.18 tCO2eq per capita. Facilities (headquarter offices, field offices, warehouses, etc.) accounted for 46 per cent of the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions, air travel for 42 per cent and other travel for the remaining 12 per cent.

Of the 67 reporting entities, 39 offset all of their reported greenhouse gas emissions for the year, making them climate neutral. Four other entities offset a portion of their 2016 greenhouse gas emissions, taking the share of offsets to 37 per cent of the UN’s reported greenhouse gas emissions for 2016.

Earlier this year, in a speech on climate action, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres highlighted the importance of working together to combat climate change:

“All of us – governments, businesses, consumers – will have to make changes. More than that, we will have to ‘be’ the change. This may not be easy at times. But for the sake of today’s and future generations, it is the path we must pursue.”

The Sustainable United Nations (SUN) project coordinator, Isabella Marras, has commended the progress entities have made in the ten years since the UN Chief Executive Board approved the UN’s Climate Neutral Strategy in 2007:

“The leadership and dedication shown by UN staff at all levels has been inspiring. We’ve seen efforts to measure and reduce our environmental impacts across all agencies, in all countries, via numerous activities and I’m confident that the UN is on track to meet the goal of being climate neutral, through emissions reductions and offsetting, by 2020.”

For the second year in a row, the Greening the Blue report also includes details of the UN’s waste generation and management. A total of 52 UN entities provided quantitative waste data for 2016, revealing that average per capita waste generation throughout the year was 554 kilograms. With regards to managing the waste that was produced, 30 per cent of the UN’s waste was recycled, reused, recovered or composted in 2016, up from 26 per cent the year before.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve overall environmental performance continued across the UN throughout 2017, with several entities adopting a systematic approach to reducing their environmental footprint.

For more information on the methodology used for the waste and greenhouse gas inventories, please visit the ‘Our Approach’ pages.

The full Greening the Blue report 2017 is available for download here.