UN Environment Assembly 2017 goes green

Tue, 19/12/17

Early in December, some 4,000 people including 110 Ministers and 2 Heads of State attended the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The overarching theme of this year’s UNEA was pollution, with the aim to deliver a number of commitments to end the pollution of our air, land, waterways and oceans. 

Part of this effort was UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign, which took place in the run-up to the UNEA. As a result, people all over the world have come together to make over 2.4 million commitments; from no longer using single-use plastics and refusing to buy products that contain microbeads, to using public transport or eating less meat.

#BeatPollution sculpture at UNEA, filled with different types of waste

These commitments have been reflected in the numerous resolutions and pledges promised by those who took part in the Assembly. It has been estimated that if every promise made in and around the Assembly is met, then 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air and 30% of the world’s coastlines will be cleaned up.

When organising such a major conference, especially one that focuses on pollution, it’s crucial that its environmental footprint is minimal, which is why, like in 2016, this year’s UNEA was climate neutral. A number of efforts were made to ensure the Assembly was as sustainable as possible:
  1. All flights, taxis, hotel stays, conference activities and resource usage were measured and will be offset.  

  2. The use of plastic was limited. By distributing refillable glass bottles, organisers avoided the use of some 30,000 plastic bottles during the two-week event.

  3. Lanyards for registration badges were made out of recycled plastic. Attendees were encouraged to return them at the end of the conference to ensure reuse at future events.

  4. The food prepared by caterers was mostly grown in a 50km radius of Nairobi, greatly reducing travel-related emissions as well as supporting local agriculture.

  5. Through the usage of the UNEA app and electronic document sharing, the Assembly saved some 475,000 sheets of paper that would add to waste material produced. 

A full report on the success of these initiatives, and the overall environmental performance of the Assembly will be available in February 2018.

Categories: Energy, Meetings, Offsets, Procurement, Travel, Waste