Secretary-General Pledges Greening of UN Headquarters

MADRID, Spain, June 6, 2007 (ENS) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the United Nations will help safeguard the planet by making its own in-house practices more climate neutral and environmentally sustainable.

In an address Tuesday at the headquarters of the UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, in Madrid, Ban said he believes that a planned $1.9 billion refurbishment of the Organization's Secretariat building in New York City is a "good starting point."

Movement of staff to accomodate the renovation is set to begin in 2008, with construction on a lawn on the UN's premises to begin the same year so that the General Assembly can meet in the new space during the renovation. The refurbishment is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Originally built in 1949 and 1950, the main UN Headquarters buildings are inefficient, costing the UN more than $30 million a year in energy costs alone.

The United Nations Headquarters on the East River in New York City. Framed in marble, the 39 story office structure is known as the Secretariat building. At left is a partial view of the General Assembly building. (Photo courtesy UN)
"I would like to see our renovated Headquarters complex eventually become a globally acclaimed model of efficient use of energy and resources," said Ban, asking all United Nations offices around the world to join in this initiative.

In his speech, which coincided with World Environment Day, the secretary-general emphasized the need to eliminate wasteful practices.

"That is why, today, I am asking the heads of all UN agencies, funds and programs to join me in this effort," he said, adding that UN staff members across the system should do their part.

"This undertaking will require dedication, perseverance and considerable financial resources, and the strong support of our member states," Ban noted.

The world needs "new thinking and a new inclusiveness" to tackle the perils of climate change, Ban said, marking World Environment Day with a call for urgent global action that takes into account the needs of the world's least affluent countries.

He said that tourism is harbinger of peace and can propel economic growth.

Climate change is an issue that concerns the UNWTO, the secretary-general observed, as mass travel plays a part in rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Ban said 840 million people travel across borders each year, while an even larger number travel within their own home countries.

Ban himself is travelling to Heiligendamm, Germany, for the summit meeting this week with leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

He observed that the United States and European countries were proposing contrasting strategies for dealing with climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea says it is time for a new inclusiveness to strengthen the fight against climate change. (Photo courtesy UN)
"We shall see how all this unfolds," the secretary-general said, "but let us remember, a G8 agreement that is not global in scope cannot hope to offer solutions to a global problem. It is time for new thinking and a new inclusiveness."

Ban welcomed President George W. Bush's declaration last week that he would launch a U.S. climate initiative, but urged that it take place within the UN's ongoing global framework for discussion.

Ban stressed that "the science is clear" on climate change, with every day bringing fresh evidence of its growing impact, its principal cause humans, and the need for urgent action.

"Today's solution du jour the rage for carbon trading is but one weapon in our arsenal," Ban wrote in an editorial for the "International Herald Tribune."

"New technologies, energy conservation, forestry projects and renewable fuels, as well as private markets, must all be part of a long-term strategy. So must adaptation. After all, mitigation can only go so far."

Ban said he will soon announce the details of a special high-level meeting on climate change, to be held in New York in September before the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

In Madrid, Ban said he welcomes the UNWTO's consideration of climate issues at its international conferences later this year on Tourism and Climate Change in London and in Davos, Switzerland to be held later this year.

The secretary-general said he looks forward to presenting UNWTO's conclusions at the major world conference on climate change to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.