It’s not easy to be green … for UN agencies

Oh, my … yet another UN meeting related to climate change will soon be underway. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be convening (June 6-17) in Germany – home of the “green government advisors [who] admit frankly that decarbonization can only be achieved by the limitation of democracy – both nationally and internationally.”

Since I wasn’t invited, I thought I’d try to bring myself up to speed by taking a look at the May 31 edition of the UNFCC’s Newsletter. It’s a really cool newsletter, btw … even has a video (well a link to a video) of Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC telling all who will listen that:

The world will be watching closely to see further progress in Bonn so that the climate change process can once again meet the deadline for critical new decisions in Durban. [emphasis added -hro]

Oh, look, folks … climate change is now a process that’s going to “meet a deadline”! But I digress …

One of the items in the Newsletter was the announcement of the launch of a “Finance Portal for Climate Change“. It seems that this Finance Portal currently has two modules at the “pilot stage of development”: National Communications and Fast-start Finance. And by the time it’s December in Durban there will be a third module, “Funds Managed by the GEF”. In case you didn’t know (and I certainly didn’t) …

This module is a result of a joint effort between the secretariat of the UNFCCC and the secretariat of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The information that will be presented under this module will show financial flows that have been channelled, mobilized and leveraged by the GEF in its role as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC.

Evidently the GEF has been around for 20 years, and you can read all about it here. Notwithstanding its “role as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC”,

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 182 member governments — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector — to address global environmental issues.

An independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. These projects benefit the global environment, linking local, national, and global environmental challenges and promoting sustainable livelihoods. [emphasis added -hro]

How a “facility” can be both an “operating entity” of one organization and an “independent … organization” is somewhat beyond my comprehension. I’m also not sure how one might “link local, national and global … challenges” nor what their idea might be of a “sustainable livelihood”. But I’m a relative newbie to this particular aspect of UN-speak, so what do I know, eh?!

Don’t know if anyone’s told the GEF yet about Figueres’ keynote speech today in Barcelona, where evidently a “Carbon Expo” is underway. In her speech, “‘From carbon finance to climate finance’ – Are we getting there?”, Figueres acknowledges a “current lull in the carbon market” but on her planet, evidently, there is “growing interest in emissions trading”. You’ll be pleased to know that she envisions a “blending” of “carbon finance” and “climate finance”:

We need to ensure that carbon finance retains and reaches its full potential. And most importantly, we need to ensure that carbon finance and climate finance work effectively together so that the intention of capitalizing on and using the Green Fund – hopefully before 2020, but certainly by 2020 – can be fully achieved.

Go figure! But back to the Newsletter … On a lighter note, I learned that (for at least the last year, it would seem) the UN has another program called “Greening the Blue“.

Well, at least there’s … uh … no pressure – certainly not on any of the UN’s stable of acronymic agencies. Some random samples from the “What the UN is doing”:pages:

[United Nations System] Air travel as a proportion of total emissions: 50%

[United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)] Air travel as a proportion of total emissions: 94%

[United Nations R & W Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)] Air travel as a proportion of total emissions: 5%

Good to see that UNRWA is “balancing” the high-flying UNEP – and no doubt reducing the “system” average. But, alas, UNRWA’s report also included:


Due to financial constraints, it is not expected to offset emissions in the next two years.

• Project Greening the UN

UNRWA will require external funding support in order to implement a comprehensive CO2 reduction plan


• Renewal of vehicle fleet and infrastructure

Vehicle replacements will not be possible during the 2010-11 biennium, but instructions will be delivered to take environmental aspects into account when evaluating the acquisition of new vehicles

Yet, there’s a poll on the Greening the Blue home page in which they ask:

Should UN staff be allowed to travel business class?

And, as I had noted a year ago – the 2008 Annual Statistical Report on United Nations Procurement indicates (p.289) that the UN procured “Official Entertainment Services” from a Lebanon based organization, Quantum Trading Co – for the paltry sum of (US)$4,206,082.00.

Oh, well … <sigh> for a UN agency, I guess it’s just not easy to be green.

3 thoughts on “It’s not easy to be green … for UN agencies

    • Well, you just blew my theory to smithereens! I thought that perhaps the the 4 million in “Official entertainment services” purchased from Quantum might have been for laptops for all and sundry officials to use – to make their non-business-class flights more pleasurable! Mind you, this was a UNRWA purchase – so maybe they thought it would be “entertaining” to provide laptops to all the so-called refugees in their bailiwick?! Then again, Quantum in Lebanon does not appear to be a registered vendor of the UN-PD (purchasor of the $27 million worth from Trigyn.)

      Trigyn is an interesting company! They seem to have a lean mean Executive Team, of which the “Chairman and Executive Director” is in India – but the $27 million appears to have gone to their “US Operations”.

      As for this $27 million expenditure by the UN-PD (which translates to United Nations Procurement Division) it isn’t clear whether this was for their own use – or on behalf of other UN agencies!

      As Alice might have said … this just gets curiouser and curiouser, eh?!

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