Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work

Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the UN High-Level Thematic Debate “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work”

To make the General Assembly’s high level thematic debate as climate friendly and environmentally sustainable as possible, the United Nations will offset a significant portion of the greenhouse gases generated by the two-days meeting. 

With support from the United Nations Foundation and United Nations Development Programme, the additional greenhouse gas emissions from this debate have been calculated to be 461 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Included in the calculation are emissions from:

  1. travel of panelists, special guests, heads of state and government, ministers, and representatives of specially invited NGOs;
  2. local travel and emissions from stay in NYC of all above mentioned;
  3. energy use for the conference venue two days.

Detailed information on the methodology and results.

The carbon emissions from the debate will be offset by supporting a Clean Development Mechanism approved eco-friendly power plant in Andra Pradesh, India: “Sri Balaji 6 MW Non-Conventional Renewable Sources Biomass Power Project.” Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) from this project have been sourced through Tricorona. The project reduces carbon emissions by displacing fossil-based power generation with renewable energy from agricultural waste that would otherwise rot or burn producing carbon dioxide or methane emissions.  
In addition to providing power stability to the electric grid in the area, this high quality renewable energy project, which may potentially complete registration under the Gold Standard in early March, provides significant local social and environmental benefits. Local benefits include: rural electrification and reduced dependency on fuelwood and coal, infrastructure development in the area, increased employment of local people, commercial value added to residual crops, and training of municipality authorities in environmental management. Furthermore, the project is expected to create a business opportunity for local bankers, consultants, suppliers, manufacturers, etc. Detailed information on the carbon offsetting approach.


Calculating emissions: methodology and results.

We have used a conservative methodology that is in compliance with the two existing recognized standards for carbon inventory assessments (ISO 14064 and the GHG Protocol) when calculating the event’s carbon emissions.

Air travel
The inventory includes incremental emissions from the debate. Air travel emissions are calculated using Atmosfair (please cf., since this online-calculator provides a very conservative calculation approach including relevant radiative forcing effects. This calculator received the best rating in an independent study conducted by Tufts University. Business and economy class travel have been taken into account separately.

Travel to and from the airports
For ground travel from JFK airport to the UN compound, average emissions of 11 kg CO2e per round-trip route in a taxi or town car have been calculated using the online-calculator at MyClimate. This calculator was chosen because it was also recommended by the Tufts University study and Atmosfair does not offer online road travel calculations.

Taxi/car emissions to and from the airport in the country of origin are assumed to be as high as in New York. This approach does not deduct those emissions that are avoided in the home country (e.g. from commuting to work).

Stay in New York
Emissions from other local travel, food and water consumption, waste, paper, etc., are estimated to be 54 kg CO2e per person staying in New York per day. This estimate is based on the average per capita emissions in the United States, noting that this is a rather conservative proxy since emissions avoided in the home country are not deducted.

Emissions from UN Operations:
Emissions generated through electricity and steam consumption at the meeting venue were offset for two days usage. The available energy consumption data is only given for the entire UN compound between 42nd Street and 48th street (i.e. more than the Secretariat). The conference rooms utilized for the debate covers around 10,000 sq ft out of 900,000 sq ft for the entire UN Secretariat in New York. Consequently, we have used a rate of 10% of the entire UN compound energy consumption for our calculation, which should be fairly conservative.

Results of Calculations
The overall inventory for the High-Level Thematic Debate on climate change, including incremental emissions from air and road travel, stay in New York and energy consumption at the UN Secretariat, is calculated to be 461 tons CO2e.

For methodology details and assumptions and any further information please contact


1. Criteria for choice of offsetting projects

To make a meaningful contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, offset projects have to go beyond "business as usual", i.e. emission reductions have to be additional. Since the most credible, broadly accepted approach for ensuring additionality so far is embedded in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, emissions from the debate will be offset with Certified Emission Reductions, i.e. carbon offsets from Clean Development Mechanism projects.

The projects identified to provide emission reductions for the debate should demonstrate a clear positive impact on sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals. Currently, the most widely acknowledged approach for ensuring environmental and social contributions of carbon offset projects is the Clean Development Mechanism "Gold Standard". Hence, emissions from the debate will be offset with credits from a project that is far advanced in the Gold Standard registration process, and may receive formal Gold Standard certification by early March.

In order to ensure that the United Nations purchase corresponds to genuine, guaranteed carbon emissions reductions, the final criterion for this offset purchase was that the offsets were, at the time of purchase, verified and issued from a certified, operational project.

2. The project

Sri Balaji 6 MW Non-Conventional Renewable Sources Biomass Power Project Plant is located in the village of Chennur, Chennur Mandal Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh, India. The plant has been operational since April 2004. India's existing power production is almost exclusively fossil fuel based, and by contributing non-fossil power to the grid, this project contributes to carbon emission reductions of 28,590 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent annually.

The primary fuels utilized for the power production are rice husk and Julie flora, in addition to other available biomass fuels like cotton stalks, sunflower stalks, and groundnut husks. A survey carried out indicates that the biomass fuels are available in abundance within radii of 25 km of the plant site. In case of insufficient supply of biomass, the plant has permission from Indian authorities and a built-in capacity to use coal as an alternative source of fuel. However, non-usage of coal since operation start strongly indicates that biomass is indeed sufficiently available in the area. In the event that coal would be used, no emission reductions shall be granted for the power thereby generated.
In addition to providing power stability to the electric grid and help reduce the ever-increasing demand and supply gap of electricity in the region, this high quality renewable energy project provides significant local social, economic and environmental benefits. Local benefits include:

  1. rural electrification and reduced dependency on fuelwood and coal;
  2. infrastructure development in the area;
  3. increased employment of local people both during construction and operation in an area where permanent and reliable sources of employment are scarce;
  4. income generation from agricultural waste, enabling farmers to augment their income;
  5. business opportunities for local stakeholders, such as bankers, consultants, suppliers, manufacturers, etc;
  6. proper utilization of surplus biomass and avoidance of burning of agricultural waste; and,
  7. training of municipality authorities in environmental management.

Furthermore, the opportunities created by the plant and the overall rural development thereby caused may help prevent the flow of poor migrants from this rural region to the urban centers of India. Hence, the project provides major additional contributions to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.

Detailed information on this Gold Standard Applicant project.