As a result of the 2007 United Nations (UN) Climate Neutral Strategy, the UN System has been working over the last 11 years to measure, reduce and offset the carbon footprint of its facilities and operations. Gradually, the scope has been extended to focus on the entire environmental footprint of the UN’s facilities and operations, including waste management, water management, and environmental management systems.

UN entities – by which we mean the UN’s agencies, organisations, funds, programmes, specialised agencies and others – have engaged in greening efforts with determination and perseverance, with support from the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UN Environment) Sustainable United Nations facility (SUN) and the Environment Management Group (EMG).

There are three main objectives to the UN’s approach:

  1. To measure and report environmental impacts
  2. To undertake efforts to systematically manage and reduce environmental impacts
  3. To achieve climate neutrality by 2020.

In addition to the UN’s internal Climate Neutral Strategy, the universal adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 has demanded that the UN System shows leadership at all levels, making the integration of sustainability considerations in facilities and operations more important than ever.


Measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water


The UN first reported its greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, for 2008 emissions. Reporting has continued every year since then and has continuously improved in accuracy and scope, providing an ever-more detailed picture of the UN System’s carbon footprint.

In 2013, UN Heads of Agencies committed to manage the environmental impacts of the UN’s facilities and operations via the introduction of environmental management systems and to expand the number of environmental indicators. This report therefore includes details of the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions and their offsets, as well as waste management, water management and the adoption of systematic approaches to environmental sustainability for 2017.

This year, we received 2017 greenhouse gas emissions data from 66 entities of the UN System, covering 255,741 personnel distributed worldwide. In total, the UN emitted 1.86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq), and per capita emissions were 7.26 tonnes CO2eq.

A total of 60 UN entities provided waste data for 2017. Based on the quantitative data provided by 56 of them, the UN-wide per capita waste generated in 2017 is estimated to be 540 kilograms.

The 2018 report was the first to feature information on freshwater use. Water data was provided by 58 UN entities, 56 of which provided quantitative data, for this year’s water inventory. In 2017, the UN System used 53 m3 (53,000 litres) of water per capita.

The UN System is committed to improving the environmental performance of all of its facilities and operations. Twenty-six UN entities have adopted or are in the process of implementing a systematic approach to reducing their environmental footprint. This could include implementing an environmental management system or receiving certificates of excellence for their green building-management practices.


Moving towards a climate neutral UN by 2020


The UN Climate Neutral Strategy commits all UN entities to minimise their impact on climate change by measuring their greenhouse gas emissions, making efforts to reduce these emissions and then offsetting any of their greenhouse gas emissions that are unavoidable. Climate neutrality is only achieved when 100% of unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions are offset by purchasing quality carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, which are also known as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). Please see the section on our offsetting methodology for more information.

A total of 43 UN entities were climate neutral for 2017 as a result of emission reductions and the purchase of carbon credits. A few additional entities decided to offset a portion of their emissions. In total these efforts resulted in the offsetting of 39% of the UN’s reported greenhouse gas emissions for 2017.


Sustainable Development Goals


The Sustainable Development Goals provide a set of universally endorsed objectives and targets to work towards. By committing to becoming climate neutral by 2020 and working to improve its overall environmental performance, the UN System is not only reducing its use of natural and financial resources but also showing leadership in integrating the Sustainable Development Agenda in management planning and processes.

For more information on SUN, Greening the Blue and the Sustainable development goals, please visit www.greeningtheblue.org/sdgs


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