Ten years of climate neutrality for The UN Environment Programme
Photo by Danish Dhamani, Wikicommons
At 47 years old, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is well into maturity. That means it’s seen its fair share of achievements—including realizing the 1987 Montreal Protocol for limiting ozone emissions, and the 2012 Minamata Convention limiting toxic mercury—as well as mistakes, notably increased air travel.
But the body, whose mandate is to set the global environmental agenda by providing leadership and solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing humankind, has not stopped improving on its annual carbon reductions, knowing it must lead by example.
This is why since 2008—when greenhouse gas monitoring began—the organization has been climate neutral. The 2019 Greening the Blue report shows that UNEP continues to reduce its carbon emissions by 3 per cent year on year from 2010 and is in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advice of 45 per cent rate of mitigation required between 2010-2030 to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5oC.
“It is important for UNEP, as the leading UN environmental agency to meet climate targets in line with the IPCC recommendation, particularly as UNEP advises and encourages Member States and other entities to work diligently towards tackling our global climate objectives,” said Shoa Ehsani, Sustainability and Climate Neutral Officer at UNEP. “In this light, UNEP practices what it preaches.”
In 2018, the organization produced 9,471 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 85 per cent came from air travel, more than half of which were subsidized travel to outside participants. Facility-related emissions have remained constant since 2008, with electricity use making up 12 per cent, while other sources including refrigerants equalling less than 3 per cent.
To make even bigger strides, UNEP must reduce its air travel. With that in mind, in 2019 the organization implemented several policies, including a cap on the number of staff travelling from the same division for an event or mission; a protocol requiring justification for staff travel and whether alternative options including online tools are available; encouraging train use as an alternative to short-haul flights; rewarding days off to staff who opt to voluntarily downgrade to economy from business class; and finally, an online flight approval system for headquarters staff that highlights their particular flight emissions compared with the UNEP average.
Apart from work on direct emissions, UNEP has focused on improving its waste management within its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, seeing more than 90 per cent of its office waste being recycled. The Latin America and the Caribbean Office in Panama has replaced its disposable plastic utensils with reusable ones and the UNEP Asia and the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre in Osaka has reduced electricity usage through more efficient appliances and lighting.
As we enter into the next decade, the organization will continue to improve its carbon footprint and lead by example, as it fights to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5oC, enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
Source: UN Environment
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