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At UN, Ban's Carbon Impact Incalculable, Airline Partners, FUNCA Sign & Space

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 22 – The UN talks about carbon reduction and austerity, but is vague about emissions while not only allowing but requiring waste.

  Early on June 21, based on questions the UN has left unanswered to many requesters, the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked the UN's “Greening the Blue,” which had been bragging about carbon reduction, “Can you / UN estimate Ban Ki-moon's entourage's travel emissions?”

  Greening the Blue uses social media, but which not answer this question from FUNCA's Twitter account, here. So at the June 21 UN noon briefing, FUNCA co-founder Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: there is something called Greening the Blue, I have tried to ask them directly and haven’t received a response, whether the UN’s Office of the Secretary-General estimates the carbon footprint, the carbon effects, of his travel, which obviously is quite necessary, but can you disclose what that the quantity is and whether it is in any way offset?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well, we’ll try and get that information for you, Matthew.

   Six hours later, as the UN made other demands on Inner City Press and FUNCA (the very sign of which the UN and its partners have tried to ban), the following was emitted by the UN as a note to all correspondents:

In response to a question about efforts to offset carbon footprint at the United Nations, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General has the following to say:

We do not have specific estimate of the Secretary-General’s travel, but we do estimate regularly the United Nations staff’s total carbon footprint as well as the share of air travel. According to the most recent Greening the Blue report, launched on 19 June 2013, the total emissions of 8,185 staff members at the United Nations Headquarters estimate 63,059 tonnes (CO2eq), of which 48 per cent is caused by air travel.

  On the question of Ban's travel impact, the UN did not have or provide an answer. But on the question of air travel, ironically, the same week Ban's Department of Public Information was tweeting about its multimedia partnership with the airline Royal Air Maroc, see here with model plane.

  The response – which did not provide the basic requested information about Ban's travel and is online in full here – added in a different font, as if an additional argument, that “[r]ecent renovations to the UN Secretariat building in New York were designed to reduce energy consumption by 50%.”

  In the new offices, at least for the press, lights go on automatically even if one does not want them. Meanwhile DPI has devoted a lot of energy to trying to order Inner City Press to take a simple Free UN Coalition for Access sign off the door to its office, while allowing the old UN Correspondents Association to have two prominent signs, a big meeting room, a separate office and even a locked UNCA pantry in which it stores its wine glasses.

  On Friday evening, as the (non) response on Ban's travel was sent out, DPI was informing Inner City Press that it planned to now put three separate media in the two-desk office behind the FUNCA sign. This was presented for the first time in front of one of the media.

  Now a series of questions have been raised. Why is an UNCA Executive Committee member next to Inner City Press given a private, one-media office? Why is the UNCA president, Pamela Falk, given a separate office? How can the UN put three media at two desks?

  The answer to the later is waste: media which have not requested UN space are told they can only get a so-called “White P” entry card if they request from the UN space they do not want. When asked about this wasteful absurdity, the answer is that these are the UN rules. But the UN makes its own rules.

  In the case of the new rule against signs – or signs other than UNCA's – the UN partnered with UNCA to put out a rule banning all competition.

  Likewise, the UN Censorship Alliance announced limitations of use of the Security Council stakeout as media workspace, which is how new media coverage of the Council is possible, conversing with diplomats going in and out while writing a series of short pieces about a range of topics.

  The UN has been told that any removal of the FUNCA sign would be unacceptable censorship, an attempt to ban a new dissenting group or network; after a week of waste, it has been asked to confirm that it will not seek to force the removal of the FUNCA sign while leaving UNCA's up.

   The DPI official responsible for much of this, promoting the ban on dissent both below and above himself in DPI, now follows FUNCA (after previously blocking Inner City Press). What will come of this? Watch this site.

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