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UN Reports Progress Towards Climate Neutrality

United Nations27 February 2014: The fifth edition of the publication ‘Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN: The UN System's Footprint and Efforts to Reduce It' provides an analysis of the UN's performance in implementing its Climate Neutral Strategy, details greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 64 organizations in 2012, breaks down emissions by source, and covers nearly 225,000 staff around the world.

According to the report, over 50% of these emissions were from air travel, which continues to represent the greatest challenge facing the UN in terms of achieving climate neutrality and net zero carbon emissions.

In 2012, the UN emitted about 1.71 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG, according to the report, while both the number of entities reporting emissions, as well as the scope of data reported, grew. The report contains a breakdown of each UN organization's emissions, as well as case studies demonstrating various measures undertaken to reduce the UN's carbon footprint, including those related to reducing travel-related emissions, improving energy efficiency of buildings and raising staff awareness. Organizations have been integrating these efforts into existing budgets, aiming to balance environmental and economic considerations, with a number of UN agencies obtaining Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certificates to offset those emissions that cannot be eliminated.

Some specific examples of organizations' mitigation efforts include: the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) saving US$9 million and 27 million kilograms of carbon dioxide following the introduction of a multilingual, interactive remote meeting service; and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reducing its waste through a Global Waste Challenge and new compost and recycling programmes in its Washington office, increasing composting and recycling rates from 35% to 93%.

The publication also outlines next steps, including: exploring a better system for capturing emissions and other environmental data; improving on-the-ground performance in resource efficiency, energy consumption and emission reductions through sharing knowledge and scaling up existing solutions; initiating an online tutorial to help UN staff better understand how to operate in a more sustainable manner; and forging a stronger link between the UN's greening efforts and management reforms.

The publication is the result of a 2007 commitment made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to assess and reduce the UN's emissions as a whole and to consider options for offsetting them. [UNEP Press Release] [UN Climate Neutrality Website] [Publication: Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN: The UN System's Footprint and Efforts to Reduce It]