United Nations Environment Programme


UNEP follows the UN system environmental inventory methodology agreed on by the Issue Management Group on Environmental Management. 

The UN greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory follows the principles of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol which has been modified to suit the specific needs of participating UN entities. The boundary of the UN greenhouse gas inventory is to emissions from facility operations and travel that can be influenced by financial and/or management-level decisions. These include emission categories associated with the purchase or generation of electricity and heat; use of refrigerants and air; and, sea and ground transportation.

To calculate its overall footprint, UNEP combines actual data and estimated ones:

  • For all UNEP offices of more than 10 staff actual data provided by facilities managers on energy use, and waste and water management are used. Per capita GHG emissions figures are calculated for each large UNEP office, and used to estimate the emissions of offices with less than 10 staff. By doing so, UNEP can claim that 100% of the GHG emissions generated by its offices around the world are reported in the annual inventory.
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) air travel calculator is used to obtain the GHG emissions generated by UNEP staff and sponsored participants’ air travel. Air travel emissions, which account for about 85% of the UNEP 2018 GHG emissions, are fully obtained from individual air travel data records.

Environmental sustainability starts with committed people. Indeed, our internal greening work could not be carried out without the great support of all UNEP Sustainability Focal Points based in UNEP offices around the world and in each UNEP Division at the HQ. Their commitment, sensitization initiatives, and support in providing the facilities and headcount data annually is a huge asset for the whole organization.

Please refer to the following page for more details on the methodology.

UNEP Annual Environmental Inventory Results

UNEP has been monitoring and reporting its greenhouse gas emissions since 2008, its waste management since 2016, and its water management since 2017. The offices of UNEP with more than 10 staff are included in the inventory and the data related to the rest of the smaller offices is extrapolated.

More information on UNEP’s performance can be found here.

UNEP Climate Neutral Since 2008

Before improving our GHG footprint, we needed to know where we were standing and our major emission sources. Therefore, as of 2008 UNEP started measuring its GHG emissions annually, setting reduction goals and strategies, and offsetting its remaining emissions. Despite the significant emission reduction efforts, some of the emissions generated are unfortunately unavoidable in fulfilling our mandate and need therefore to be offset. The unavoidable emissions related to the facilities and operations of all UNEP offices around the world are offset. At UNEP, this is done by purchasing Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) from projects in Developing Countries as mandated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UNEP has been climate neutral for the past 12 years. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) certified projects from which CERs have been bought in recent years are:

Project 1: 50,000 CERs from Wind Project in Tamil Nadu, India. (Procurement date: February 2013)

Project 2: 25,000 CERs from Large Dam Project (World Commission of Dams approved), Vietnam (Procurement date: February 2014)

Project 3: 10,000 CERs from Dam Project, India (Procurement date: December 2018)

Sustainable Events

Organizing green and carbon neutral events is another pillar for improved environmental sustainability of activities under UNEP’s control.  UNEP believes that it is important to lead by example by showing how environmental sustainability can be integrated into large events and how it can become the way forward for future meetings.

Up to this date, UNEP has only officially reported and monitored the emissions related to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which is the main meeting it hosts. For the last three Assemblies, UNEP has developed and followed a methodology to estimate the related Assemblies’ GHG emissions and to introduce sustainability initiatives in the Assemblies. UNEP has ensured their climate neutrality and the reduction of other environmental impacts: paperless and single use plastic-free events; use of food ingredients produced locally; and, the use of plants instead of flowers, among others.

UNEP is promoting green meetings across its organization as well as the UN system, by sharing the developed methodologies, experiences, and good practices.

The UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) is an excellent example of the organization’s internal efforts towards greening its meetings. In 2016, UNEP MAP cut down its paper use by 85% during the 19th ordinary meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention.

These initiatives make us believe and hope that environmental sustainability is the way forward and could become the standard approach for all future meetings and events.

Contact us to learn more on how to green your meetings, we will be happy to support!

Greening the Blue Reports

The UN System first reported its greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, for 2008 emissions. Reporting has continued every year since then and has continuously improved in accuracy and scope, providing an ever-more detailed picture of the UN System’s emissions and their sources. The report now includes data on waste management since 2017, on water management since 2018, on environmental management, and on climate neutrality status.

You will find the annual UN System reports on its environmental impacts and efforts to reduce it here.