Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged that the United Nations will help safeguard the planet by making its own in-house practices more climate-neutral and environmentally sustainable.
In an address at the headquarters of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid, Mr. Ban said that he believes that the Capital Master Plan – a planned $1.9 billion refurbishment of the Organization’s Secretariat building in New York – is a “good starting point” for building on success achieved so far.
“I would like to see our renovated Headquarters complex eventually become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy and resources,” he said, urging all UN offices around the world to join in this initiative.
In the speech which coincided with World Environment Day, the Secretary-General emphasized the need to eliminate wasteful practices.
“That is why, today, I am asking the heads of all UN agencies, funds and programmes to join me in this effort,” he said, adding that UN staff members across the system should do their part.
“This undertaking will require dedication, perseverance and considerable financial resources, and the strong support of our Member States,” Mr. Ban noted.
In the speech, he also said that tourism is harbinger of peace and can propel economic growth.
“Tourism is the people’s building block for global peace and cultural understanding,” he observed. “By bringing ordinary men and women from around the world into contact with one another, it helps dispel the myths, stereotypes and caricatures that often hold sway from a distance.”
He also highlighted the role that travel can play in boosting economies and mitigating poverty, as tourism has shown to be one of the best means by which the least developed countries have increased their participation in the global marketplace.
Although UNWTO is the smallest and youngest of the UN specialized agencies, attaining that status in 2003, Mr. Ban emphasized its key role in the broader work of the world body.
UNWTO’s “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty” programme works towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of global anti-poverty targets to be reached by 2015, while the agency’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism “provides a much-needed framework for responsible and sustainable world tourism,” he noted.
Climate change is an issue the impacts UNWTO, the Secretary-General observed, as mass travel – 840 million people yearly travel across borders while an even larger number travels within their own home country – play a part in rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
He welcomed the agency’s undertaking of the topic at its Summit later this year, and said that he looked forward to presenting UNWTO’s conclusions at a major world conference on climate change to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia.