“Sustainability is at the heart of the United Nations in Geneva. We have implemented measures to be more sustainable, resilient and cost-effective than ever before.
Among our many initiatives, lake water is used to cool the buildings of the Palais des Nations, solar panels have been installed on the roof, and steps have been taken to significantly reduce the consumption of paper and eliminate single-use plastics. We are also supporting our staff and visitors to make more sustainable lifestyle choices by installing more parking for bicycles and charging stations for electric cars.
Ensuring long-term sustainability of operations is also central to the Strategic Heritage Plan for the Palais des Nations.
Through innovation and cooperation, the United Nations in Geneva is committed to contributing to a greener United Nations, showing leadership in integrating the Sustainable Development Agenda in management planning and processes.”
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Air conditioning from water from Lake Geneva
In 2009, UN Geneva buildings were connected to “Genève-Lac-Nations” (GLN). This project, developed by the “Services Industriels de Genève” (SIG), aims to use renewable energy, i.e. water from Lake Geneva, to cool the Palais des Nations and its conference rooms.
UN Geneva has installed 60 m2 of solar panels for the production of hot sanitary water in buildings A,B,C,D,K and S. With the support of Green Cross International, 20 solar lamps have been installed in the Ariana Park.
Energy-efficient Lighting and motion sensors have been installed throughout the Palais helping to contribute to a reduction in energy consumption.
The replacement of pipes and flushing units, as well as double-flush toilet systems, has helped to reduce water consumption.
The Palais des Nations was kept warm in winter with heating oil. This energy source has been replaced with natural gas which has led to reductions in emissions of CO2.
Reducing our Impact
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 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels as well as more than 1000 new windows, thanks to the support of Switzerland. An additional 460 square meters of solar panels were installed on the H-Building which was finished in 2021, totaling to 3683 square meters of solar panels.
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.