Source: Small Island Developing States
20 September 2019: The UN has released its annual ‘Greening the Blue’ report, which provides data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water, waste and environmental management from 60 entities across the UN system. The report finds that 55 UN entities achieved climate neutrality in 2018.
The report titled, ‘Greening the Blue Report 2019: The UN System’s Environmental Footprint and Efforts to Reduce It,’ shares the UN system’s efforts to improve its environmental sustainability, including through the introduction of a new UN Sustainability Strategy 2020-2030. The Strategy calls for full integration of the SDGs in the management of UN operations and facilities and “ambitious reductions of environmental impacts.” The Strategy envisions the UN system as “a leader in environmental and social sustainability” that embeds the principles it promotes in all its operations and leaves a positive legacy.
The UN must walk the talk.
In 2018, the report states, the UN system emitted 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq), or approximately 7 tonnes of CO2eq per capita. This figure represents a decrease since 2019, when the UN’s per capita emissions were 8.2 tonnes of CO2eq per capita. In 2018, 46% of the UN’s GHG impact was from its facilities, 42% from air travel and 12% from other travel. The report notes that 95% of these reported GHG emissions are offset, and 24% of waste is recycled or reused.
The report showcases achievements from across the UN system. For example, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) piloted a fleet-sharing and driving-performance project in five countries, which reduced the three entities’ combined vehicle fleet by 10%, increased fuel efficiency and led to a 13% reduction in total costs and a 60-98% improvement in safety. In Mali, the UN designed the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) operating base to minimize tree loss and maximize the cooling effect from trees. This design saved 243 trees, and planted an additional 1,130, which are managed using treated wastewater. In Kenya, the World Food Program (WFP) has promoted recycling of plastic food packaging. The UN Office at Nairobi (UNON) installed three new cooling units for its servers, reducing the data center’s energy consumption by 30%.
For the third year in a row, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has been awarded the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply’s Gold Certificate in Sustainable Procurement. This award recognizes UNOPS for minimizing GHG emissions, improving waste management, supporting the safeguarding of women and empowering local economies in its purchasing policies and practices. In Kosovo, for example, UNOPS installed a wastewater treatment system that redirects grey water to irrigate land, extinguish fires and flush toilets. The project considered gender in its contracting documents, ensuring that at least 20% of employed personnel were qualified female engineers.
As the world mobilizes to address the climate emergency, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that the UN “must walk the talk,” and expressed his strong commitment to ensure the UN continues to lead in all areas of environmental sustainability. He said the UN is taking action to reduce its GHG emissions and energy use, transition to cleaner energy sources and improve its waste management system and is “on course to be climate neutral by 2020.” [Publication: Greening the Blue Report 2019] [Report Webpage]