New York

21 June 2013

Note in response to a question on efforts to offset carbon footprint at the United Nations

We do not have specific estimate of the Secretary-General’s travel, but we do estimate regularly the United Nations staff’s total carbon footprint as well as the share of air travel. According to the most recent Greening the Blue report, launched on 19 June 2013, the total emissions of 8,185 staff members at the United Nations Headquarters estimate 63,059 tonnes (CO2eq), of which 48 per cent is caused by air travel.

The United Nations is working to reduce its carbon footprint. The Secretary-General is vocal about his ambition to make the United Nations more efficient in its operations and for all UN agencies, funds and programmes to move their respective organizations towards climate neutrality, as part of the SG's 'greening the blue' initiative. Recent renovations to the UN Secretariat building in New York were designed to reduce energy consumption by 50%.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and taking a more holistic approach to environmental sustainability management is the Secretary-General's top priority. He often says that the Organization must lead by example as the world addresses the climate challenge and strives towards a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement.

To date, thirty-six UN agencies have started working on emission reduction strategies. Many agencies are focusing efforts on reducing the number of flights undertaken, and are introducing e-communications as a substitute for air travel.

Energy management strategies are being applied, including the production of renewable energy on site, and the use of passive design strategies and energy efficient technologies such as LED lights and control system, are helping to reduce the carbon footprints of many UN facilities. In 2007 the Sustainable United Nations (SUN) facility and the Issue Management Group (IMG) on Environmental Sustainability Management were created to work on measuring, reducing and offsetting the UN’s carbon footprint. Since 2012 this mandate has been strengthened and broadened by Member States and UN System leaders.

UNDP and UNEP are working together to produce a web-based training tutorial to shift the UN’s working culture and make greening simpler for all staff.

The latest data on the Organization's carbon footprint can be found here: