Greenhouse gas inventory achieved - Challenge now to cut back emissions

News and Press Release
Originally published
UN Leading by Example

A new report will be launched on 15 December in Copenhagen, at a side-event taking place from 20h00-21h30 in the Dan Turell Room, Hall H, Bella Centre.

Those scheduled to attend are Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme Executive Director and Chair of the Environment Management Group, Edouard Dayan, Director General, Universal Post Union, Olav Kjorven, Assistant Administrator of UNDP, Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director, UN Capital Master Plan, Svend Olling, Head of Denmark's COP15 Logistics and Stephan Herbst of Toyota.

Copenhagen, 15 December 09 - After one of the most wide-ranging and painstaking exercises ever undertaken across the United Nations system, the organization today announced its greenhouse gas footprint as part of a first step to manage these emissions down.

The work, coordinated by the UN's Environmental Management Group (EMG), has covered emissions arising from the various UN agencies and its headquarters as well as field operations and peacekeeping missions in Africa and beyond.

The report, compiled in response to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's determination to make the UN system a climate-friendly body, indicates that the biggest international body is emitting the equivalent of 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, of which approximately 1 million tonnes comes from peacekeeping operations.

The total figure represents an emissions profile equal to 3.3 per cent of that produced by New York City-the UN's host metropolis.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme and Chair of the EMG, said: "It is incumbent on every country and every organization including the UN to first measure, and then to measure down, its environmental impact".

"The UN, under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is determined to be part of the solution. This first ever inventory is just a stepping stone towards supporting the kind of goals that scientists deem necessary to combat climate change while realizing a low carbon UN as part of a transition to a 21st century resource efficient international body," he added.

The report, launched during the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, is entitled "Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN: The UN system's footprint and efforts to reduce it".

It includes greenhouse gas inventory data from UN headquarters and major centres, down to its peacekeeping and field office operations. It covers the full range of the institutions that make up the UN system, from the Secretariat and its regional economic commissions, to the specialized agencies, funds and programmes.

The inventory uses a common approach and methodology. It gives a detailed picture of the total footprint of the biggest international body and its more than 200 000 personnel. It also includes an overview of the initial steps that have been taken by the organization to manage its greenhouse gas emissions as well as a few examples of offsetting.

The aggregated GHG emissions of the UN system organizations for their facility operations travel and peacekeeping operations in 2008 are estimated at just over 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. When excluding peacekeeping operations, the emissions are approximately 770,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Air travel is responsible for roughly half of the emissions produced.

The report lists each institution's experiences, emissions reduction efforts and next steps towards climate neutrality. Several UN system organizations are committed to substantial emissions reductions and are implementing measures to reduce emissions from their facilities and travel.

Five UN system organizations have declared themselves climate-neutral or carbon-neutral. Another six organizations have made specific high-profile events or meetings entirely or partially climate neutral

The UN system has announced its next step as scaling up to sustainable management systems in the UN, which will address, in a holistic and systematic manner, the full range of sustainability issues.

From 2010 onwards, the UN's EMG will coordinate the move from a greenhouse gas inventory and collection of success stories towards a common approach on emission reductions throughout the United Nations system and emission reduction strategies with targets for each UN institution.

Notes to Editors

Examples of Climate-Friendly Action

Case Studies on buildings

UN Headquarters: The UN headquarters complex in New York City was built in 1952 and it is time for a comprehensive full renovation. The plan now is to upgrade all major building systems including the electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, heating and air conditioning systems, as well as to reinforce the structural integrity of the building and remove all asbestos. At least 50 % reduction of total energy use is expected.

Green One UN House: In Hanoi, the Government of Vietnam, the UN Country Team, and several donors are contributing towards the construction of a Green One UN House. The energy consumption is expected to be reduced by 36 %, through maximizing heating and cooling efficiency and using energy efficient lighting. The water management system will also harvest the rainwater, recycle and filter it, thereby reducing water use by 30%.

UN Office at Geneva: In Switzerland, the UN Office at Geneva has installed solar panels and solar lights, eliminated wasteful practices, introduced regulation of temperatures and integrated sustainable procurement practices. These measures have, over the past eight years, reduced electricity consumption by 20%, water consumption by over 40% and fuel consumption by close to 20%. This also represents savings of almost 4.5 million dollars for the UN.

Earlier this year, the Geneva-Lake-Nations Project was inaugurated through which the UN's Palais des Nations is now cooled with 100% renewable energy from Lac Léman. Through the Natural Gas Project the Palais des Nations is heated with natural gas.

The United Nations Office at Nairobi and UNEP are currently constructing a new, 1,200 person office building in Kenya that will be a zero emission structure that is utilizing modern design and technologies including solar panels.

Examples of Emission Reduction Strategies

ILO has included the climate-neutrality objective in the ILO Strategic Policy Framework for 2010-15. Among other measures, its use of video conferences is to be increased by 25 %.

FAO has gathered and analyzed data for an Environmental Management System consistent with ISO-14001 for its Headquarters. It is well placed to set up a time or target bound emission reduction targets beyond climate neutrality.

WFP has a sound track record of implementing energy-saving projects that also help to deliver aid more efficiently. WFP will for instance pilot hybrid-electric vehicles in city areas with an expectation to save 16 % of its fleet emissions.

ESCAP has initiated a number of staff awareness activities through the provision of appropriate guidance and participation in environmental activities. The ESCAP online discussion board facilitates the organization of car pooling and encourages its staff to engage in existing car pools.

UNCTAD aims to reduce its annual GHG emissions by 20 % by 2020 without compromising the work and goals of the agency. This will be achieved by addressing travel reduction, organizing low-carbon conferences, energy-efficiency and staff awareness.

UNITAR will establish a tracking and monitoring system to calculate emissions of GHGs per person trained and units of training delivered. The envisioned reduction goal of the Institute's carbon footprint per unit of training delivered is 50 % by 2012, using 2008 data as a baseline.

The UNEP climate neutral strategy will be updated before the end of 2009. It has four main objectives:

1. 85% emission reduction by 2050 (compared to base-year 2007);

2. Approach 1) emission reduction and 2) offsetting;

3. Pursue climate neutrality within an environmental management approach;

4. UNEP will 'lead by example' and will share methods, procedures, and approaches with other organizations.

To access the full report in pdf:

and e-book version:

For more information please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Mobile: +41 795965737, or e-mail: