UN Agencies Make Progress Towards Climate Neutrality

The United Nations annual publication dedicated to assessing its own impact on climate change has revealed that UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes had made progress towards climate neutrality.

The report said in 2012, the UN emitted about 1.71 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas – the same as nearly 86,000 homes in the United States.

The fifth edition of “Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN”, which was released on Thursday, and made available to the Ghana News Agency details the emissions from 64 UN organizations, covering nearly 225,000 staff around the world.

As in previous years, over 50 per cent of emissions (866,609 tonnes) were from air travel, meaning this remained the biggest challenge to the Organization in achieving climate neutrality-the achievement of net zero carbon emissions by balancing carbon released with an equivalent amount offset.

The year 2012 saw growth in both the number of entities reporting their emissions, as well as in the scope of the data reported: an increased number of UN bodies were able to report not only on their headquarters, but also on other offices.

The publication is a product of the commitment made in 2007 by Secretary – General Ban Ki-moon – and echoed by Heads of UN system organizations – to assess and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to consider options for offsetting them.

In addition to a breakdown of the emissions of each organization, the report contains a selection of case studies demonstrating the measures undertaken to reduce the UN’s carbon footprint.

Highlights included the International Telecommunication Union which saved $ 9 million and 27 million kilograms of CO2 following the introduction of a multilingual, interactive remote meeting service.

The International Finance Corporation’s work to reduce its waste footprint, including a Global Waste Challenge and the introduction of new compost, and recycling programmes in its Washington office, increased composting and recycling rates from 35 per cent to 93 per cent.

In his introduction to the report, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon thanked UN leaders and staff for the commitment of each UN organization to improve its environmental performance, adding, “We have made good progress and pledge to continue on this essential path.”

The report provides update on progress in implementing the 2007 Climate Neutral UN Strategy which was approved by the UN Chief Executive Board and committed all agencies, funds and programmes to move towards climate neutrality within the wider context of greening the UN.

Specifically, the Strategy placed a demand on UN bodies to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions, to undertake efforts to reduce their emissions and to analyze the cost implications of purchasing carbon offsets.

The UN greenhouse gas inventory includes emissions from all activities that are under the direct financial control of the Organization, such as the heating and cooling of buildings and the travel of staff members.

The emissions calculations in the report were compiled using internationally recognized guidance based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used methodology developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

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