U.N. Aims To Offset its Own Carbon Footprint

Posted on 01 June 2012 by admin

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 1, 2012 (IPS) – As the international community readies for a global mega- conference on sustainable development in Brazil mid-June, the United Nations is determined to practice what it preaches to the outside world: improve resource efficiency and drastically reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.

With over 50,000-60,000 participants worldwide scheduled to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, the U.N. staff delegation to the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, has been minimised to approximately 1,400 – primarily for economic and environmental reasons.

But even so, the 1,400 participants, according to U.N. statistics, will generate an estimated 3,600 tonnes of carbon emissions, largely from air travel.

And so the president of the 193-member General Assembly, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, has offered his strong support for a Carbon Emissions Offsetting Initiative (CEOI).

The aim: to offset the carbon footprint from U.N. staff travelling to Brazil and participating in Rio+20 summit.

A carbon footprint has been defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support human activities, and is traditionally expressed in equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The CEOI, the brainchild of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), is aimed at a “climate neutral U.N. participation at Rio+20″.

“I look forward to a resounding success of this U.N. system-wide Carbon Emissions Offsetting Initiative at Rio+20,” Ambassador Al- Nasser said.

In a letter to Yiping Zhou, head of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, Dr. Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, ambassador and chef de cabinet, said “the President of the General Assembly commends your team’s creativity and your leadership in responding to our collective commitment to ‘walking the talk’ on climate change”.

The CEOI also has the blessings of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang, head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and secretary-general of Rio+20.

Both officials will join Ambassador Al-Nasser during the launch of the initiative on Jun. 21 as part of a side event at Rio+20 in Brazil.

The Special Unit has been mandated to facilitate the initiative by building partnerships and leveraging the services of its flagship exchange platform: South-South Global Assets and Technology Exchange (SS-GATE) to offset the estimated 3,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the U.N.’s participation in Rio+20.

According to the Special Unit, SS-GATE will offset the emissions with Gold Standard Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) generated from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects with a priority for projects in the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The CDM allows emissions-reduction projects in developing countries to earn CER credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2.

CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrial countries to meet a part of their targets under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The Special Unit says that with more than 3,600 registered projects in 72 developing countries, the CDM has proven to be a powerful mechanism to deliver finance for emissions-reduction projects and contribute to sustainable development.

To date, about 1,270 projects in 45 countries have issued a total of more than 780 million CERs.

The Special Unit also points out that SS-GATE has recently offset over 3,500 tonnes CO2 emissions from two major U.N. events: the U.N. Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China and the 2011 Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa.

The Special Unit’s key partners include the the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and its Rio+20 Secretariat, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) and the UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group and its Bureau for Development Policy.

Meanwhile, in a report released in April, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) points out that over 50 percent of the U.N.’s greenhouse gas emissions are from air travel (4.2 tonnes per capita) making this the biggest challenge for the organisation in reducing its overall emissions.

In its third annual report titled “Moving Towards a Climate Neutral U.N.,” the report details a wide range of actions taken across the U.N. system to improve resource efficiency and cut the organisation’s emissions.

“These include encouraging train journeys over air travel, providing bicycles for staff members, installing efficient lighting systems in U.N. offices or using e-conferencing instead of traveling to meetings,” it says.

According to the report, the U.N.’s 2010 emissions for 54 entities in hundreds of locations (and over 200,000 employees) show that the U.N.’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

“This is the same amount of carbon sequestered annually by 383,795 acres of pine or fir forests, an area the size of the Faroe Islands.”

In the foreword to the report, Ban said “the United Nations system is strongly committed to leading by example and ensuring that our operations are continuously monitored and improved – not just in terms of what we deliver, but also how we deliver.”

“We are also looking to this year’s U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – to generate ideas that will energize sustainability efforts worldwide,” he added.


Download PDF File

Download TERRAVIVA PDF File   Download TERRAVIVA PDF File


Expo Milano

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos


Terraviva talks to Giuseppe Sala, CEO of EXPO Milano 2015 Expo Milano 2015 is in Rio to kick off its global dialogue on food and energy. During a side on June 21, CEO Giuseppe Sala gives an overview of the Expo 2015 that will run from May to October in Milan, Italy.more >>.

Upcoming Events


RSS News from our partners

  • Are you ready to Connect4Climate?
    World Bank's social media campaign engaged African youth caring about climate change.
  • Natural capital accounting
    Thomson Reuters Foundation and the World Bank have jointly produced a video explaining the concept of “natural capital accounting” in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development. The seven-minute video news release (VNR) was created as part of a World Bank campaign for countries to carry through on promises to include the full [...]
  • IUCN World Conservation Congress
    IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a long standing member of COM+. It helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, [...]
  • IFC, Union for Ethical BioTrade Encourage Businesses to Protect Biodiversity in Latin America
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 17, 2012—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Union for Ethical BioTrade today announced an agreement at the Rio+20 Conference to increase private sector awareness of biodiversity and strengthen market frameworks for protecting it in Latin America. In addition to aiding environmental conservation, the partnership will help [...]
  • Rio de Janeiro e Banco Mundial lançam inĂ©dito Programa de Desenvolvimento de Baixo Carbono da Cidade
    RIO DE JANEIRO, 18 de junho de 2012 – A Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Banco Mundial lançaram hoje, durante a CĂșpula dos Prefeitos – evento paralelo Ă  ConferĂȘncia das NaçÔes Unidas sobre Desenvolvimento SustentĂĄvel-Rio+20 –, um programa pioneiro na esfera municipal para colocar em prĂĄtica açÔes para o desenvolvimento de baixo carbono [...]

Sponsors and Partners of TerraViva Rio + 20


TerraViva is an independent publication of IPS Inter Press Service news agency. The opinions expressed in TerraViva do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of IPS or the official position of any of its sponsors or partners.