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Sustainable Development at UNOG

UN Geneva has made great strides to integrate environmental sustainability into its operations and activities since the launch of the Greening the Blue initiative in 2010. We are currently implementing a new Environmental Management System (EMS), which will incorporate environmental protection into every aspect of UN Geneva. Our work is already showing concrete results. In 2017, UNOG achieved climate neutral status for the first time. This milestone was reached in part by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and purchasing carbon credits. UN Geneva will become even more environmentally friendly thanks to the planned renovation of the Palais des Nations. These achievements demonstrate that the Sustainable Development Goals can be reached when we work together to make a difference for the future.”
Michael Møller

Building an Environmental Management System (EMS)

Protecting the environment is a defining challenge of our age, due to the risks for society posed by global warming, the loss of biodiversity and the pollution of the natural environment. We need to make fundamental changes in the way we produce and consume goods and services. In accordance with General Assembly resolutions 70/205 and 71/228, the wider United Nations and UN Geneva are expected to contribute to those goals by integrating sustainable development considerations into their own management practices, and in particular their facilities and operations.

UN Geneva has adopted an Environmental Policy. This strategic document commits UNOG to environmental protection, through the establishment of an Environmental Management System (EMS). An EMS uses a structured approach to manage environmental impacts and to improve environmental performance over time. Every three months, a high-level Steering Group on Environmental Sustainability reviews the progress made by UN Geneva.

Reducing our impact on the climate to reach climate-neutrality

Each year, UN Geneva calculates its greenhouse gas emissions and reports the results to Sustainable United Nations (SUN) / Greening the Blue. By knowing precisely how much greenhouse gases we emit, we can find ways to reduce them.

Between 2000 and 2016, the energy used for heating the Palais des Nations decreased by 36%, and the electricity used by 33%. This impressive reduction has been achieved through a combination of institutional measures, innovative partnerships with the Host Country and civil society, and a transformation of work processes. In 2008 for instance, the Palais des Nations changed its heating system from using fuel to natural gas − which emits less pollutants and CO2. In 2014 we installed 3223 sq. m of photovoltaic solar panels, as well as more than 1000 new windows, thanks to the support of Switzerland.

UN Geneva has also partnered with the Services Industriels de Genève on the Genève-Lac-Nations project, which consists of cooling the Palais des Nations by using the water of Lake Geneva. For the renovation of the Palais des Nations, the goal of UN Geneva is to heat its premises using heat pumps. With this technology, 90% of the heat needed during winter will come from a renewable supply. It will also enable us to reduce carbon emissions by up to 2,000 TCO2eq per year.

Despite its best efforts, UN Geneva still generates greenhouse gas. These unavoidable emissions are however compensated by purchasing Certified Emission Reductions (CER), which helps developing countries use climate-friendly energy technologies. UN Geneva is thus climate-neutral since 2017.

Sustainable consumption and waste reduction

UN Geneva has also changed its consumption patterns. Since 2000, the Palais des Nations has reduced its water consumption by 66%. This has been achieved through changing the toilet flushes, by using sensor-activated taps and setting up an automatic system for the irrigation of the Ariana Park.

Finally, efforts are also made in waste management according to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” principles. A particular effort is currently made to find alternative solutions to single-use plastics.

See also: "UNOG works to beat plastic pollution"