The second session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2) took place at the UN Environment (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2016. The five day conference was geared at being a carbon neutral, paperless and plastic bottle free event.
UNEA-2 was attended by over 2,000 participants, from different parts of the world, with a large percentage of participants flying into the country for the event. The carbon footprint of the event totalled 2,775 tons of CO2e. The most significant emissions came from travel with 60% (1,665 tons) associated with air travel and 27% (653 tons) from local transport. The remaining 11% and 2% was attributed to accommodation and food (298 ton of CO2e), and conference related emissions (56 tons of CO2e), respectively. All climate emissions were offset through the purchasing of Carbon Credits (CERs), provided courtesy of the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), making the event carbon neutral.
1,568 participants accessed the event remotely. Of these, 1,033 participants were international and 535 from Kenya. Indicatively, 2,200 tons of CO2e were saved from reductions in plastic, paper and participants using e-communication options (instead of flying to the venue), which equates to approx. 211 homes’ energy use in a year.
One of UNEA-2’s environmental criteria was to be a paperless event. Participants were encouraged to follow proceedings using the UNEA-2 app or by use of iPads and tablets provided. This saved 8 tons of CO2e and approx. 1.4 million prints/copies, equal to nearly 1,400 paper reams from being put in waste: an equivalent of CO2 that would have otherwise been produced by a 42 inch LCD TV used for 499 days continuously. The effort also achieved a cost saving of approximately USD 30,189 for the organization.
Plastics have revolutionized the world with their application in everyday life, a fact further aggravated by the low cost in their production. However, the disposal and unsustainable usage of plastics has been of key concern due to the associated negative impacts such as climate change, ground water pollution brought on due to the accumulation of plastics in landfills/dumpsites that leads leaching of the toxins related to plastics, negatively affects the health of all life, both terrestrial and aquatic, etc. In this light, UN Environment banned the use of plastic bottles by providing reusable glass bottles and aluminium UN Environment/UNEA-2 branded bottles.
This saved approximately 300,000 plastic bottles and 45,000 plastic cups that would have otherwise ended up in dumpsites and further added to the environmental degradation attributed to plastics. In the event, this also yielded an emissions saving of 3.8 tons of CO2e.
Sticking to the 3 R’s of sustainability (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) all material that was used during the UNEA-2 conference was either partially stored for internal reuse or partially donated to local schools (an on-going process).
The UNEA-2 environmental achievements reflect the goals of the UN Gigiri inter-agency Environmental Commitment Charter signed in 2015 at the UN Environment’s Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya; and also the approved UN Environment’s Environment Management System (EMS) policy.
For more insight into UN Environment sustainability practices, please visit: http://www.unep.org/sustainability.