Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks, at roundtable on “How to move Further, Faster to Minimize Carbon Footprints, in New York on 22 September:
The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our generation. The next decade is crucial for all us to bend the emission curve so we can meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global temperature rise as close to 1.5 degrees as possible, as spelled out by the IPCC 1.5-degree report.
We need a clear pathway that will bring us to net-zero emissions by 2050.
This is why the Secretary General convened his Climate Action Summit to bring the world leaders to announce concrete plans to transition our economy to a Paris-compatible pathway.
We must all walk the talk.
The UN Organization employs over 290,000 people and operates thousands of offices in 193 countries and territories. In 2018, the United Nations procured close to 19 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services.
We know that transitioning such a vast and complex Organization from where we stand now to one that is truly ‘climate smart’ poses challenges that we are only now beginning to appreciate, and that should not be underestimated. And we cannot do it alone.
In this room, we welcome representatives of key philanthropic organizations, those who are committed to use their expertise and financial resources to support the climate cause. We look forward to exploring with you how together we can deliver on the solutions that can provide the transformation that we need to address these challenges.
We reach millions of people via projects on the ground.
Since 2007, when our senior leadership endorsed the UN Climate Neutrality Strategy, we have committed to measure, reduce and offset our unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.
For more than 10 years, the United Nations system, under the Greening the Blue banner, has worked on internalizing environmental sustainability and climate action in our respective entities.
However, it is clear that we also face a number of serious challenges that are intrinsic to the nature of our operations, especially those on the ground, and we are not able to say yet that environmental sustainability is mainstreamed in all we do.
We are a very dispersed and ever-changing organization with literally thousands of permanent and temporary facilities spread across the globe.
We need to fly a great deal to deliver on our mandates – although video conferencing is now helping to reduce air travel.
We undertake humanitarian and peacekeeping operations at short notice and in regions where utilities and local environmental infrastructure and services are either absent or below the standard that the UN can accept.
For these reasons, in early 2019, the Chief Executives Board endorsed the UN Sustainability strategy 2020-2030.
The strategy defines a unified UN system vision for environmental sustainability management, and a set of strategic goals and indicators for the UN system to achieve by 2030 in five environmental areas: climate, biodiversity, air pollution, waste management and water management.
On climate, the strategy demands that UN system organizations reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the recommendations of last year’s IPCC 1.5 degree report through a combination of energy demand reduction, shifting to renewables, optimizing our travel and logistics and offsetting the remaining greenhouse gas emissions.
As we call the world for climate action, so we must integrate environmental sustainability in our own operations so we can benefit the communities we serve.
Our UN Secretariat, which represents 60% of the entire UN system climate footprint, has developed an ambitious Climate Action Plan and targets aligned with the system-wide strategy and aligned with the ambitions of this Climate Summit.
On the ground, our efforts demonstrate that real progress is possible.
The United Nations Development Programme has recently committed to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions from operations by 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. UNDP has also committed to implement waste management and to minimize the use of natural resources in all of its country operations.
This is significant and I applaud UNDP in its momentous commitment.
For example, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has reduced its energy consumption by 33% from 2015 to today and are on course to reach a 50% reduction by 2020.
The UN Mission in South Sudan is installing two solar diesel power plants tied to the grid that are expected to significantly reduce fuel consumption and save approximately $1 million annually.
The carbon footprint of the UN Headquarters in Geneva has been significantly reduced through the use of innovative water-cooling processes that draw from Lake Geneva, together with electricity purchased from renewable sources and the self-generation of solar energy. The planned installation of new heat pumps that use the waters of Lake Geneva will result in the Palais des Nations being 95% powered by renewable and low-emitting sources of energy.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has taken action to reduce the energy consumed by IT systems in its country offices. The OneICTbox allows them to take the full control of their ICT infrastructure and manage it remotely. Over 50 OneICTboxes have been installed to date, delivering an average reduction of 80% in power consumption and 75% in space occupied.
While we are making concrete progress, to be truly transformative and to make the rapid improvement we need to meet our ambitious climate targets, the UN system will need to join with external actors in partnerships that bring innovation, investments and expertise to our shared efforts.
I am encouraged that so many of you among the philanthropic community are here today to engage in this dialogue. I thank the IKEA Foundation, in particular, for its leadership and collaboration in bringing our communities together to explore concrete suggestions on how we can work together to deliver on our shared goals.
I hope, through this conversation, that we can explore more opportunities for the UN and the philanthropic community to collaborate on efforts to reduce our carbon footprints.
Let us show how this transition can showcase the viability and benefits of shifting from “business as usual” to systems and approaches that are compatible with keeping global heating below 1.5°C.