Is The UN Doing Enough To Manage Its Own Pollution And Emissions?

by GoNews Desk 2 years ago Views 4126

UN nGreening The Blue Report 2021 Key Facts
With the COP-26 Climate Summit scheduled to go on until November 12th, it is worth noting the climate action and environmental protection that the United Nations itself is implementing. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that “The United Nations is committed to lead by example in reducing our carbon and environmental footprint in all our operations around the globe. Together, let’s achieve a sustainable, net zero and resilient world for all”. 

The 2021 edition of the Greening The Blue report contains data for the year 2020 which saw significant reductions in emissions and other activities impacting the environment on part of the UN. This is mainly because of the adaptations that had to made to working patterns and systems due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic which necessitated physical distancing and remote working. 

The coronavirus pandemic “highlighted the opportunity the UN system has to revisit its working and travel modalities and come closer to the ambitious emissions reductions’ targets that it has set for itself for 2030”, the report says. 

The organization says that “The UN System generated 25% less GHGs in 2020 over 2019 due to rapid adaptation to pandemic conditions”. In the aforementioned report, a total of 315,000 personnel and 56 UN systems have been studied. 

It informs us that “in 2020, 19 per cent of UN electricity worldwide came from the use of renewable energies”.

The UN also uses 38 m3 of water per personnel per year, counting 256,000 personnel in 51 entities

We can see below that progress needs to be made on educating UN staffers and officials on environmental friendliness and climate action policies: 

Buildings, Air Travel Contributing To Bulk Of Emissions

The UN Secretariat, the organization’s main operational body headed by the Secretary General, is the largest emitter within the UN system. It emitted approximately 960,000 tCO2eq of which the bulk were caused by the Peacekeeping (military) commitments and other political programs. This is so because military operations generally produce a greater volume of emissions. 

The report shows that 55% of emissions were caused by buildings, followed by air travel (32%) and 12% by other forms of travel. There were 1.5 million tones Co2 equivalent released in 2020 with per capita emissions of 5 tonnes CO2 eq. 

This chart contains a breakdown of emissions generated by different entities within the UN such as UN Secretariat, World Bank Group, WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, etc. 

Waste Management, Ozone Protection 

Waste management is among the big priorities of the UN. By 2030, the year set for meeting SDG’s the UN aims to ensure that its solid waste does not cause pollution in its local context, and avoid releasing toxic substances that harm the environment, ecosystems, and life forms. 

Covering 258,000 personnel in 50 entities, the average waste generated throughout the UN system is 396 kg/person, and 184 kg/person excluding Peacekeeping and Special Political Missions. Controlled disposal is the dominant form of waste management at the UN as seen from this chart from the report: 

In terms of protecting the ozone layer and mitigating upper atmospheric pollution, the UN still has some way to go, if its own statistics are to be believed. The report says that 62%, well over half, of UN offices are not aware of which refrigerants they use. 

UN’s Carbon Footprint And Offsetting 

The Greening the Blue Report has been brought by the UNEP since 2007 to study the environmental impact and climate action being caused and taken by the United Nations. The 2021 edition says that “the UN system was able to offset 99 per cent of GHG emissions”. 

As mentioned earlier, in 2020, the UN caused  ~1.5 million tonnes CO2eq greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Offsetting is when ‘carbon credits’ are purchased in return for the right to emit a defined unit of ‘unavoidable’ emissions. These credits go into financing projects that mitigate emissions and climate change. Examples of such projects include “include installing new renewable energy facilities, restoring forests, delivering clean cook-stoves or improving energy efficiency in homes.”

Despite offsetting, the priority for the UN still remains “emissions reduction and elimination”. 


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