Using Less Energy, More Renewable Sources, United Nations Prepares for Lights Out during Earth Hour, to Be Marked Worldwide on 23 March

22 March 2013

Using Less Energy, More Renewable Sources, United Nations Prepares for Lights Out during Earth Hour, to Be Marked Worldwide on 23 March

22 March 2013
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Using Less Energy, More Renewable Sources, United Nations Prepares for Lights

Out during Earth Hour, to Be Marked Worldwide on 23 March


The United Nations will participate in Earth Hour 2013 by turning off the lights at its offices around the world for one hour on Saturday, 23 March, in a symbolic gesture to support action on climate change and demonstrate its commitment to reducing its own carbon footprint.

Observed by millions of people worldwide, Earth Hour has become an occasion to announce actions and initiatives by individual citizens and organizations.  In preparation for the Hour, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that Governments, business and civil society all have a role to play in generating common-sense answers for a cleaner, greener world.

“We participate with an undimmed determination to take action on climate change,” Mr. Ban said.  Since taking office in 2007, he has urged the United Nations system to “lead by example”, and system-wide efforts have been made to monitor and reduce the Organization’s carbon footprint.  In New York, it is now buying all electricity for its iconic Secretariat Building from renewable energy sources, a major milestone in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the Headquarters campus.

The switch to renewables, currently comprising 100 per cent wind energy, has been carried out by purchasing tradable Renewable Energy Certificates, issued when electricity is generated and delivered to the grid from a qualifying renewable energy source.  Overall, the $1.9 billion renovation of the Secretariat Building aims to reduce the consumption of energy (electricity and steam) by 50 per cent and carbon emissions by 45 per cent.

Action to reduce the world body’s impact on the environment is being taken in United Nations offices around the world.  The World Bank in Washington, D.C., as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome also purchase Renewable Energy Certificates for their electricity.  The Universal Postal Union in Berne, Switzerland, has reduced its electric lighting needs by 70 per cent through a retrofit, and WFP’s regional bureau in Dakar, Senegal, has cut its energy needs by 22 per cent by promoting switch-off and energy-awareness campaigns among staff.

At the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, its new three-story building is designed to slash energy consumption by 54 per cent, mainly due to 6,000 square metres of solar panels.  It also has low-energy servers with reduced cooling requirements, energy-efficient lights, light wells to maximize natural light, and presence detection and daylight sensors.  The building also features water-efficient dual-flush toilets and drought-resistant landscaping, fed by rainwater collected from the roof.

This is the fifth time that the United Nations will join scores of other landmark buildings around the world in the Earth Hour event.  In 2012, more than 7,000 cities and towns in 152 countries switched off their lights to show support for action on climate change and sustainable living.

Launched in Australia by WWF, the global conservation organization, in 2007, Earth Hour calls for people, organizations and cities to turn off non-essential lights for one hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time.  Earth Hour event will take place one week after the vernal equinox — when night and day are the same duration in both hemispheres — to ensure that 8:30 p.m. will be night-time for all people, wherever they are.

For more information on United Nations sustainability efforts, please see

For more information, please contactDan Shepard, United Nations Department of Public Information, at or +1 212 963 9495.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.