Secretary-General's press encounter at the launch of the 'Cool UN' initiative [unofficial transcript]
New York, 1 August 2008SG: Thank you very much for your interest and support for my initiative to work in a very cool UN atmosphere. This is a part of my continuing efforts and commitment to conserve energy and also address global warming issues.
As you know, I'm a rather formal type of person, but I'm committed to leading by example. In my whole life as Secretary-General and my previous capacity as a public servant, I have seldom been so self-conscious about what to wear to work. Today I am wearing, to try to lead by example, a very light suit. We are not just cutting back suits and ties. We are cutting significantly the greenhouse dioxide emissions, which the United Nations has been generating. We can at least save 300 tonnes of greenhouse dioxide emissions. We can also conserve energy by 10 per cent.
If we continue to implement this initiative during wintertime, I am told by my advisers that we can save at least one million dollars, in terms of financially, the budget. That is significant. That may be big or that may be viewed as not enough, but if we continue this initiative, we can significantly save our energy as well as financial budget.
I sincerely hope that all of our United Nations staff, Agencies and Funds and Programmes and hopefully Member States will also participate in this important initiative. This may be good for us, but after all, ultimately, this will be important for our common efforts in addressing climate change issues, and I thank you very much for your support. Have a nice day, and keep yourselves cool.
Q: A quick question, Mr Secretary-General. I notice that this room is warm, but the room next door, the conference room, felt like an ice box. I just walked into the room adjacent to this one. Why is that room so cold?
SG: I have been feeling very warm sometimes in this [room]; therefore, I have to move sometimes into my next conference room. But it's not because of the system, but because this room has a wide window; it has a more warming effect. But we are now going to raise the temperature by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and I will try to endure all these working conditions. This is part of my commitment.
Q: Mr. Secretary, they say clothes make the man. Do you feel diplomacy is less effective when you shed the tie and the suit and the jacket?
SG: Well I cannot [speak] for any meaningful way, but this will really help. You can first of all feel very comfortable. Even in conducting diplomacy I think this is good. There are certain countries already who have taken this initiative, including my own home country, [the Republic of] Korea, and also neighbouring Japan and China and many other countries in the world. When I had the meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister, in fact, we did without ties.
Q: But the room next door, the diplomats' negotiating room, that you use, that is below 70 degrees, at least: it's very chilly. And diplomats get to come in and out of this building and they get to go into their limousines while the staff has to stay, and I think some perhaps are a little frustrated with that. I know you think they should live in the conditions that the real world has to live in.
SG: As far as conference rooms within the UN headquarters, this is our concern. We are going to raise the temperature by 5 degrees. So the temperature will be set at 75 degrees Fahrenheit while staff offices will be set at 77. This is for the convenience and comfort of delegations who will have to engage in very important negotiations and debate on world affairs. I think that's reasonable.
Q: Isn't that a double standard? And can you also address the fact that the room next door is still considerably colder than 75 degrees? It's like a meat locker in there.
SG: No, next door will be set at 77 degrees.
Q: Why's it so much colder in there now?
SG: Because of this particular situation in this room, the temperature may be a little bit warmer than normal. The next conference room will also be set at 77 degrees. But you will see, you will feel a difference in temperature, even at the same 77 degrees.
Q: Are you going to encourage President Bush, President Sarkozy and other world leaders to follow your lead, during the General Assembly, or otherwise?
SG: I do not have any control over Member States; they are sovereign Member States. That is why I said hopefully I will expect Member States will also follow this initiative. Thank you.