United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


HQ: Nairobi, Kenya

Focal Point: Shoa Ehsani

Email: shoa.ehsani [at] un.org


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions

N.B The greenhouse emissions attributed to UN Environment include that of a number of Multilateral Environment Agreement and Convention secretariats that participate in UN Environment's climate neutral strategy.

Key Figures: Waste


Key Figures: Water




UN Environment's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


Experience so far


UN Environment has been climate neutral since 1st January 2008. This was achieved by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible. From 2011-2016 we reduced our climate emissions by about 60 percent, the remaining emissions were compensated by procuring offsets.

Offsets have been purchased as issued Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol.

The biggest source of emissions is from work related flights, of which participant travel accounts for 55%. In 2011 flights accounted for 94% of all flights, but by 2016 their contribution had fallen to 76%. As UN Environment’s number of flights have increased in 2017 (by some 25%), efforts have been made to come up with a strategy to reduce air travel:

  • Staff are encouraged to use e-communication technologies
  • Using train travel instead of short haul flights
  • Combine/ lump missions together
  • Give people a flex-day of leave if they fly economy when entitled to business class (TBC).
  • Publish per capita emissions for divisions or individuals to see who the most polluting are, and create competition.

UN Environment’s work to support Climate Neutral UN has resulted in harmonized methodologies within the UN, and inspired organizations within as well as outside the UN to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve improved sustainability.

66 UN organizations and three governments have already received or are receiving support from UN Environment, through provision of tools and methodologies, training, awareness raising, coordination and information sharing.

UN Environment also facilitated UN inter-agency groups on travel, facilities management, information and communications technology, and procurement work for low-carbon solutions.


EMS and Reduction efforts


UN Environment’s Climate Neutral Strategy that also includes participation from a number of Multilateral Environment Agreement and Convention secretariats was reviewed in 2013 and the scope expanded to include the management of other environmental concerns such as water, energy and waste.

In August 2015, UN Environment Executive Director signed the Environmental Policy Statement establishing an Environmental Management System (EMS) for UN Environment HQ and main offices around the world.

The EMS has identified as main environmental aspects to be systematically monitored and reduced i) GHG emissions (buildings + air travel); ii) Waste generation and management; iii) Fresh water use and management; iv) Staff awareness; v) Energy use and management.

The EMS is an important step forward towards greater environmental sustainability and management of UN Environment operations after the approval of the Climate Neutral Strategy in 2010, by which UN Environment set itself a target of reducing its emissions by 3% year on year.

Since 2011 UN Environment’s headquarters is located in a state-of the art green building (NOF); this move has resulted in a 50% reduction of office emissions and a 25% reduction of all facility-based emissions despite the expansion of office areas and auxiliary buildings and plants.

The NOF building harnesses electricity from roof-top solar photovoltaic arrays, uses light wells, passive cooling, motion and lux sensors for efficient lighting operations and low-energy lighting fixtures to achieve energy and therefore emission reductions.

The EMS will focus on flight reductions, fine tune the NOF buildings operations, improve water and waste management at the compound in collaboration with the organization in charge of facilities management (UNON) and look at the use of biofuels in official vehicles; thereby reducing UN Environment’s footprint further.

Further goals include the instituting of EMS in four other Un Environment Offices worldwide.




UN Environment has been entirely climate neutral (HQ and all offices away from HQ) for the past 9 years. The 2017 footprinting is being offset by remainder of 2 and some of 3.

  1. 50,000 CERs from Wind Project in Tamil Nadu, India. (Procurement date: February 2013)
  2. 25,000 CERs from Large Dam Project (World Commission of Dams approved), Vietnam (Procurement date: February 2014)
  3. 10,000 CERs from Dam Project, India (Procurement date: ongoing)

Waste Management


Waste data for UN Environment HQ were obtained from the overall UN Gigiri Waste data. The overall amount of waste produced at the UN Gigiri compound level was normalized per capita and multiplied by the number of UN Environment staff in order to provide UN Environment share. In total 6 of the 11 reporting UNEP offices, reported on waste; this is a welcome growth in reporting.

In 2017 a new waste sorting facility was established by the United Nations Office Nairobi (HQ). In combination with the new waste contractor the UN compound Nairobi can achieve a recycling rate of up to 90 percent once sorting practices by staff are optimized. Recycling bins were introduced in all UN Environment HQ offices in October 2018.

Along with the United Nations Office Nairobi, UN Environment tackled this issue by reducing single-use plastic consumption. Since 1 August 2018, the UN Gigiri compound is the first UN headquarters free of single-use plastic in its cafeterias. Disposable plastic cups, cutlery, coffee lids and takeaway containers are no longer available. Instead, staff are encouraged to bring their own takeaway containers. In short these are the actions taken:

  1. The building of a new waste sorting facility; the hiring of a new waste contractor and the implementation of waste recycling initiative.
  2. Banning of all single-use plastic in the cafeterias since 1 August 2018:
    • Banning beverages that are served in plastic bottles including water and sodas. These were substituted with beverages served in glass and aluminium cans. New water suppliers use recycled glass with metal caps.
    • Banning the use of plastic straws: a paper straw or no straw policy has been implemented.
    • Banning of coffee cup lids.
    • All single-use plastic take-out containers are banned, a reusable take-out container is available for sale on campus. The possibility of a long-term strategy with the Kenyan government to provide alternatives to plastic for the entire country should also be sought.
    • Plastic cutlery use in the compound: All plastic cutlery is banned; wooden coffee stirrers are available. Staff are requested to bring their own cutlery for takeaway food.
    • The use of non-plastic folders has been piloted. Various options exist using either recycled paper or renewable biomaterial

Given that these measure were implemented in 2018; their effects will be studied during the 2019 UNEP inventory.


Water Management


UN Environment receives its water data at HQ as percentage of leased space at HQ (dividing water bill by useable space). In other sites meters are used. A total of 3 of 11 reporting UNEP offices provided data on water.

At HQ in Nairobi, where water is scarce, several methodolgies are in use for better water efficiency:

  1. Recycling and use of grey water on compound. Most of the watering of the 140 acre compound is achived through treated used water (grey water)
  2. Dual flush toilets
  3. Plunge taps that shut off automatically
  4. Rain water harevesrting from roof of New Office Facility (estemated at 7.5 million litres a year)

The success of these has not been established as no baseline exists (water data reported for first time in 2018). Comparison with other UN hubs maybe the way forward.


Other environmental measures


There is a mobility programme for the UN Gigiri compound/ UN Environment HQ. Bicycles for internal transport have been provided with various parking stations. In addition, subsidized staff buses are in operation (running on biofuels). Finally a carpooling App to reduce trafiic in teh compound is being launched.


Next Steps

  • Reporting of progress of the EMS Action Plans in the field of waste, water, energy, air travel and staff awareness.
  • Promotion of Green Events in particular the UN Environment flagship event- UNEA; other large UN Environment events
  • Partnership with Facilities Managers at UN Environment HQ and in the offices around the world for improved Environmental Management and Sustainability. Expansion of EMS to 5 other large offices.
  • Better sensitization of staff on internal environmnetal issues and in particular the waste sorting/ recycling initiative at HQ.

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