Report: The UN moves towards climate neutrality

Fri, 07/12/18

As the deadline for achieving the UN’s target to become climate neutral draws closer, the UN System has once again demonstrated its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Introducing the 2018 edition of the Greening the Blue report, released today, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has said: “The United Nations must lead by example. I am committed to accelerating sustainability efforts and supporting the UN System to achieve climate neutrality by 2020."

This year's report includes greenhouse gas emissions data from 66 entities across the UN System for 2017, representing 255,740 personnel. It also includes data on waste, water and environmental management from many UN entities.

Greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting

A total of 43 UN entities were climate neutral for 2017, representing 39% of the System's reported greenhouse gas emissions. This is an increase on 2016 figures, when 39 entities were climate neutral, representing 37% of the System’s reported emissions.

The report also shows that in 2017 the UN System:

  • Emitted 1.86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) in 2017 – or 7.26 tCO2eq per capita
  • Generated 44% of its greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities (headquarter offices, field offices, warehouses etc.), 42% from air travel, and 14% from other modes of travel
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from travel, facilities or both in 32 entities (compared to 2016 emissions)

Waste generation and management

The report includes details of the UN’s waste generation and management. A total of 56 UN entities provided quantitative waste data for 2017, revealing that average per capita waste generation (including Field Missions personnel, who reside on UN premises 24/7) throughout the year was 540 kilograms. With regards to managing the waste that was generated, 21% was reused, recycled or composted in 2017. The remaining 79% of waste went to landfill, was incinerated, was recovered or received other treatment.

This year there was a collective effort across the UN System that saw 14 UN entities take action against single-use plastics, including banning them from compounds.

Water consumption

The report also includes data on the UN System’s water consumption. 56 entities participated in the 2017 inventory, indicating that the UN used 53m3 (53,000 litres) of water per capita last year.

Environmental management systems

The Secretary-General has pointed out that sustainability efforts need to be accelerated: “I call on UN leaders, staff and business partners to promote efficient energy use, zero waste to landfill, low-emission transportation, carbon neutral buildings and sustainable supply chains and procurement."

The UN System is committed to become more sustainable via the adoption of systematic approaches that demand organisations develop an internal environmental action plan with clear objectives and devote the necessary resources.

In an effort to reduce their emissions and overall environmental footprint, to date at least 26 UN entities have either implemented or are in the process of developing an environmental management system. Environmental management systems are being deployed both in small and large offices such as the UN Secretariat in New York and UNOPS. Sustainable building standards are also being used to systematically improve the environmental performance of facilities such as IFAD’s Headquarters in Rome, ICAO’s Headquarters in Montreal, the One Green UN house in Vietnam, and many others.

By 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.


More information                          

For more information on the methodology related to travel emissions provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation please visit the ICAO website.

For information on climate neutrality please visit the UNFCCC website.



The full Greening the Blue Report 2018 (including methodology) can be read here.

The Greening the Blue Report infographic is available for download here

A mobile/tablet-friendly version can be downloaded here.

A French version of the report can be downloaded here

For a full overview of the UN System's 2017 environmental footprint, please visit our UN System results page


Categories: Buildings, Greening the Blue report, Energy, Offsets, Staff Engagement, Waste, Water