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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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While Vague on Viennese Climate Change Results, UN Will Offset Emissions in September, Donor Undefined

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Ban Ki-moon's climate change event on September 24 will be offset, for carbon emissions, UN official Richard Kinley told Inner City Press on Tuesday. Mr. Kinley stated that the UN "has a methodology" to "trace all emissions," including those from the UN building, and that the UN "has an understanding with a donor... to finance the costs of offsetting." Video here, from Minute 38:49. Asked to name the donor, Mr. Kinley declined, saying "Give us a week."

            Mr. Kinley said he was prepared to address questions about the just-concluded Vienna event, so Inner City Press asked if the UN agrees that the evasion of the 25 to 40 percent emissions reduction target by 2020 made the Vienna meeting a set-back. Mr. Kinley said, quite the contrary, the meeting "went further than could have been expected," and at least mentioned the 25 to 40 percent figure. Video here, from Minute 28:35. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked a well-placed UN staffer what would be considered a success from the upcoming September 24 event, or from Bali in December. "It's all incremental," the staffer said, pushing off the date by which Mr. Ban's process could be judged into 2008.

            Ban says he is all about results. But on this, a signature issue of his, there appear to be no ways to measure results. At least the production of hot air will be offset.

UNEP's Achim Steiner plants a tree, May 21, 2007 - offsetting?

            Last month, Inner City Press asked the UN Environment Program "a question about carbon offsetting (for travel and buildings' emission) and the UN system - does UNEP favor such offsetting? What UN agencies or divisions are you aware  of which seek to offset their emissions?"

            UNDP spokesman Eric Falt responded:

UNEP aims to practice what it preaches and is keen to “green” its own operations. Modest progress has already been recorded at our Headquarters in Nairobi, with efforts to institute water-saving schemes, better recycle waste, eliminate the use of plastic bags, offer glass recycling facilities, collect paper and cardboard for recycling, introduce energy-efficient lighting --including sensors, or encourage tree planting for staff members. We are also currently conducting a detailed environmental review of the compound which will result in many more changes. It will include proposals on carbon offsetting.

Our Executive Director, Achim Steiner, has also been asked to provide advice in relation to the Capital Master Plan. In New York, these efforts are lead by the Deputy-Secretary-General and Ms. Alicia Barcena and I would therefore have to refer you to them for more specific information.

All in all, UNEP aims to influence the lives and decisions of others in a positive fashion. We try to encourage and prod, but not castigate. As I am sure you are aware, carbon offsetting is still a new proposition for Governments, companies and for the United Nations family alike, and neither UNEP nor others in the UN family have a policy on "offsetting" today.

The UN Environment Management Group (EMG), hosted by UNEP, is however spearheading overall efforts of the UN System in this regard. In essence, the EMG is helping the whole UN family to achieve a "greener UN" by moving toward sustainable management of its operations, including reducing emissions, green procurement, etc. Proposals from the EMG will be brought soon to the Chief Executive Board (CEB) for adoption.

            We'll be following up on this. Inner City Press asked Mr. Falt about Mr. Steiner's reported travel to the UN retreat in Turin and, this month, to New York. The response included that "as you know, it is common UN practice not to discuss travel of senior UN officials until shortly before they travel." But do they carbon-offset? We'll see.

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without Ban's DPA having responded.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540