New Masterplan Boosts UNEP’s Green Credentials

Mon, 06/09/10

Less air travel, more e-conferences and ‘green meetings’ to catalyze climate neutral strategy

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is today publishing an ambitious new strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and pave the way towards a zero emissions future.

Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP will introduce a wide range of efficiency measures across its global operations from reducing international air travel to cutting electricity and paper use in its offices.      

Between 2010 and 2012, UNEP is committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 3% each year from 2009 levels.

A key target area is work-related travel by UNEP employees. At present, air travel is responsible for over 85% of UNEP’s carbon emissions. The new strategy aims to reduce employee travel by 3% each year from 2010 to 2012.

More journeys will be undertaken by train and there will be greater investment in e-conference technology. UNEP will establish an e-communication plan where all UNEP employees are provided with access to online communication tools and online meeting rooms.

UNEP has been climate neutral since 2008, but the new efficiency measures in the Climate Neutral Strategy will enable UNEP to lead by example in promoting sustainability. Additionally, implementing the efficiency measures could save the organisation an estimated US$800,000 per year. 

Under the new guidelines, which will be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today, UNEP will also introduce a ‘green meetings’ policy. All conferences, events and meetings need to adhere to UNEP’s 2009 Green Meeting Guide, which outlines ways to reduce waste, energy use and water consumption at such events.  

Greenhouse gas emissions from UNEP’s offices--due primarily to electricity use-- make up around 15% of the organisation’s carbon footprint.

To reduce workplace emissions, all UNEP offices with 10 or more staff members will undertake in-house greenhouse gas emis¬sion reduction audits based on the Sustainable United Nations (SUN) Guide to Climate Friendly Buildings and Offices. Each office will develop preliminary emission reduction plans by December 2010.

As part of the strategy, UNEP’s in-house sustainability will be overseen by staff using an Environmental Management System (EMS). This management tool will monitor the organisation’s environmental impact and assist in providing progress reports on emissions targets. It will be operational by the end of 2011.

In summary, UNEP’s Climate Neutral Strategy has the following objectives:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible through adoption of sustainable management practices, and by procuring offsets to compensate for the remaining emissions.
  • Reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 3% per year during 2010, 2011 and 2012, compared to 2009
  • Support the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-85% by 2050 compared to 1990.
  • Aim for continuous improvement in sustainability performance and de-velop an environmental management system to support this.
  • Monitor, manage and report on its climate and sustainability performance on an annual basis.
  • “Lead by example” and provide a basis for raising awareness of similar organisa¬tions, governments, and the public as a whole. UNEP will share methods that can be used by other organisations to reduce their own environmental and climate footprint.

Introducing the new strategy, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “These are bold ambitions for any organization with a workforce of over 1,000, offices across the world and a busy international calendar involving implementing projects and policies and working with governments and other partners across Continents. But we have a responsibility to lead by example, and all UNEP staff are aware that becoming more sustainable today is the only way we can protect tomorrow—and if we can get this right it should generate economic savings too.

He stressed that staff involvement would be key to the strategy’s success:

“I am personally committed to seeing this strategy implemented, and will work closely with the Senior Management Team to see that this happens. It will, though, require effort and support from all UNEP staff and stakeholders, and I look to them to help us in realising these ambitions.”

UNEP is coordinating a UN-wide effort to move the organisation towards greater sustainability through the implementation of the UN-wide Climate Neutral Strategy. More details can be found at

To download the UNEP Climate Neutral Strategy, please visit:

Categories: Energy, Leadership