Cimate Action? 5 Steps our Office is Taking!

October 8, 2021

Fighting climate change is one of UNDP China’s main objectives, delivering multiple nationwide programs each year. But what about the organization’s own carbon footprint? What is it doing to ensure its own climate impact is as low as possible? Given that the world needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to mitigate climate change, our office has taken 5 key steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

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1. Power! Setting up our own low-carbon system

With the energy sector contributing up to 75% of greenhouse gases, solar energy is one of the major existing solutions that can enable a transition to net-zero emissions, in both urban and rural environments. With funding from the UNDP Greening Moonshot Facility UNDP upgraded its internal power generation system in April this year and now has an installed power capacity of 83 kWp as well as an online real-time dashboard that tracks the amount of electricity generated and carbon saved. This move has enabled us to save up to 10,000 USD and 88 tons of CO2 per year- the equivalent of taking 19 cars off the road each year.

Solar panels at the UN Compound Beijing

Solar panels' dashboard

Solar panels at the UN Compound Beijing

UNDP China's Green Lunch Participants

2. Be cool. Upgrading our cooling and refrigeration system

Often forgotten or overlooked, outdated Air Conditioning (AC) units and fridges are one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases by offices in China. Not only do they contribute to global warming, but they also produce ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that harm the ozone layer which surrounds the earth. This year we are upgrading our AC units, which will help us save around 8 tons of CO2 and 10 tons of MWh.

In addition to improving the office’s energy efficiency, the upgrade also delivers an important cost saving, as new refrigeration units consume less electricity than their predecessors. This is helping to greatly reduce our carbon footprint during Beijing’s freezing winters and roasting summers!

3. "Lumos!" Upgrading the lighting system

LED lights are efficient and affordable resources that help institutions to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Again, thanks to funding from the UNDP Greening Moonshot Facility, we will install 317 LED and sensor lights in our Beijing UN Compound, which will result in saving more than 6.4 MWh of energy and 5 tons of CO2 per year.

LED lights installed

Solar powered lamps

4. On the way. Encouraging low-carbon transportation

UNDP has enforced a policy to encourage its employees to take trains rather than planes. The Beijing UN compound has also installed charging stations for electric cars, enabling the use of e-vehicles for staff commutes. Additionally, UNDP China is the first country office in the Asia-Pacific region to use a fully electronic vehicle (EV) as the first representative’s car.

Our compound is also supporting the use of bikes rather than cars for UNDP and other UN agencies. Earlier this year we upgraded our fleet of bikes to around 50 and it is now quite common to see UN colleagues cycling to meetings or grabbing lunch around Beijing! 

UN bikes

The UN compound's electric vehicle with Beate Trankmann, Resident Representative, UNDP China

5.蔬菜慢慢吃! Eating a vegetarian diet and enjoying it!

Did you know that eating less meat - and in particular beef - is one of the most meaningful actions a person can take to reduce their impact on the planet? As part of an advocacy campaign to raise awareness on the ease of switching to vegetarian meals, help change people’s habits and set a wider example among the UNDP country office network, we have been holding green ‘potluck’ events twice a month where we organize social lunches without meat, fish or plastic.

So far in 2021, UNDP colleagues prepared 150 ‘green’ lunches! Not only have these lunches helped us to get to know our colleagues (and their cooking skills…) a little better, but these events also enable us to exchange our favorite low-carbon recipes!

As an extension of the ‘green’ lunch concept, we have mandated that all internal and external office events should be plastic free. We still have some way to go, but where possible we have also chosen catering options that are locally sourced, meat free, and have a low carbon footprint.

UNDP China's Green Lunch participants

Meat and plastic free lunch at UNDP China

Meat and plastic free lunch at UNDP China

UNDP China's Green Lunch Participants

In 2022, the year of the tiger, we will be taking further steps towards our net-zero target and hope they will also be a roaring success. Stay tuned!

Want to know more? Check out our UNDP video here:

Authored by Arnaud Debauge and Tish Ahluwalia