United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


HQ: Geneva, Switzerland

Focal Point: Andrea Dekrout

Email: dekrout [at] unhcr.org


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions*


 * In 2017, UNHCR's GHG inventory included Betou, Budapest, Canberra, Copenhagen, Dar Es Salaam, Geneva, Harare, Kakuma, Tinduf and Tongogara.

Key Figures: Waste

Key Figures: Water


High Commisioner's message


“Forced displacement is unfolding within a broader context - in which people are moving more rapidly, over longer distances and for a more complex range of reasons than at any time in history.  Food insecurity, environmental degradation, climate change, inequality, exclusion and bad governance are driving mobility today.

We will continue to contribute to advancing legal, policy and practical solutions for the protection of people displaced as a result of climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters, recognising that these are significant drivers of global displacement. ”

Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner, UNHCR



The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) leads and coordinates international action for the protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems worldwide. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective, the Office strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home voluntarily.

Environmental issues are closely intertwined with so much of what we do. A greater commitment to protecting the environment would enrich our operations and make us more credible to global efforts. Better environmental practices can also help to reduce UNHCR’s operating costs, enhance the protection of refugees, reduce competition for resources and improve relations with host communities.

Experience so far


Since 2009, UNHCR has been monitoring the carbon footprint of its headquarters operation in Geneva (for facilities and travel). In 2018 UNHCR significantly improved its sustainability monitoring by reporting on 2017 GHG emissions, waste and water use for 10 pilot offices including HQ and field operations. In 2019, reporting has covered over 100 offices in over 60 countries.

For the first time, UNHCR is climate neutral as it has purchased Certified Emissions Reductions to offset all greenhouse gas emissions generated by the organization in 2018.

EMS and Reduction efforts


In 2019, UNHCR with support from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the UN Environment’s Sustainable United Nations team is piloting EMS implementation in Jordan.

In 2018 UNHCR together with UN Environment and other UN partners participated in UNHCR’s first Environmental Peer Review of its operation in Kakuma, Kenya. The peer review helped highlight opportunities to improve environmental performance and identified plastic waste reduction as a key opportunity for improvement. UNHCR has since worked with partners to complete waste assessments in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia, Jordan, Algeria and HQ in Geneva. In 2019, implementing recommendations from the assessments, refugees in Ethiopia (Melkadida) are being trained on local plastic waste remoulding and creating livelihoods opportunities from recycling.  

In 2019, UNHCR has developed Global Strategy for Sustainable Energy (2020-2024), which focuses on the following four areas of strategic action:

  • Address refugee households´ energy needs from the onset of an emergency;
  • Improve access to sustainable, safe and affordable household cooking energy;
  • Expand sustainable household electrification; and
  • Expand sustainable electrification of community and support facilities, while limiting overall consumption.



133,855 Gold Standard Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) purchased, which offsets 100% of 2018 emissions and makes UNHCR climate neutral for the first time.

Waste Management


In 2018, UNHCR initiated reporting to the SUN on waste generated in several offices, including Bassikounou, Betou, Budapest, Canberra, Copenhagen, Dar Es Salaam, Geneva, Harare, Kakuma, Moscow, Tinduf and Tongogara. In 2019, waste reporting was expanded to 85 offices.

Water Management


In 2018, UNHCR initiated reporting to the SUN on water management in 12 offices, including Geneva in Switzerland, Budapest in Hungary, Copenhagen in Denmark, Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, Kakuma in Kenya, Canberra in Australia, Tongogara and Harare in Zimbabwe, Betou in Congo, Tindouf in Algeria, Moscow in Russia and Bassikounou in Mauritania. In 2019, reporting on water use was expanded to 89 offices.

Other Environmental Measures


UNHCR is undertaking a number of land and forest restoration programs and is working to improve the quality and sustainability of these initiatives. For example, in 2018 UNHCR worked with partners to bring 100 ha of degraded land in Northern Cameroon under community-based sustainable land management, with long-term monitoring. Similar initiatives are taking place in Sudan and Burundi in 2019. Furthermore, UNHCR will work on a land and forest management inventory to allow for global monitoring and reporting.

UNHCR also works closely with FAO to improve land and forest management in refugee contexts. The two organisations have recently co-released technical guidance on forestry in displacement settings and are working on establishing standard methods for valuing and managing non-timber forest products which will be validated in 2019.

UNHCR is also working with IUCN to successfully tackle issues of Human-Wildlife conflict in refugee hosting areas in Bangladesh. UNHCR is working to expand its partnerships with conservation agencies in 2019.

Next steps


For 2020, UNHCR is planning to expand GHG, waste and water inventory to include at least 50% of its operations. It will also continue cooperation with the Norwegian Engineers Without Borders on reviewing UNHCR’s waste streams and identifying ways to reduce them and utilize them for productive use.

UNHCR and sustainability

UNHCR, the environment and climate change

UNHCR case studies