On Thursday, 27th July 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the support of United Nations Communications Group (UNCG) hosted the “Greening the Blue” Staff Town Hall to discuss the latest movement in the journey towards making the United Nations House a more environmentally sustainable place. Following former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s 2007 call upon all UN agencies to “go green”, the solar panel launch on the 26th of July at the UN House was a big step towards the Greening the Blue initiative (GtB).
The “Greening the Blue” initiative is part of the UN’s global drive to fulfil its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the foundation of the 2030 Agenda. Within the SDGs, Goal 7, “Affordable and Clean Energy“, strives to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and Goal 13, “Climate Action“, aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The GtB initiative strives to create a more mindful UN in order to address environmental sustainability in Namibia and promote the SDGs through exemplary leadership. While the GtB initiative is specifically targeted to reduce carbon footprints in the UN system, its greater aim is to help efforts to design programs and projects in line with international, regional and national aspirations to conserve the environment and limit carbon footprints.
Since the installation of the panels in the beginning of May, power usage at the UN House has decreased by approximately 50%, which in monetary terms translates to a total savings of roughly N$60,000 per month. This highlights Namibia’s great potential in renewable energy, specifically solar power, with its abundance of land, an average of 300 sunny days per year and the second highest solar irradiation regime in the world. While the solar panel initiative highlights the progress being made at the UN, it is only but a small part of the greater action being taken to promote sustainable energy and achieve climate neutrality.
Following the solar panel launch, UN members learned more about “Greening the Blue” through a dynamic and engaging presentation, given by UN Volunteer’s Project Assistant, Ms. Lydia David. The presentation informed staff on ways in which energy consumption can be improved to promote a cleaner and more sustainable environment. The Programme Specialist of UNDP, Ms. Martha Naanda, lead a discussion about the ways in which the UN staff can change their attitudes and behaviour in order to create a cleaner office environment. The UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Kiki Gbeho, Ms. Naanda, and Ms. David elaborated on how UN staff can be involved in these goals. Ms. Naanda said, “Creating a more sustainable UN is not just about the systems and equipment we utilize, it’s about our attitudes. Yesterday we launched and today we are educating ourselves on what we can do.”
Practical strategies such as implementing gray water irrigation systems, installing light sensors, utilizing recycling systems, using environmentally efficient light bulbs, and remembering to turn off the lights when away from the office are all effective ways to improve the UN’s energy consumption. These strategies provide a platform whereby the UN family can engage in small, yet impact-reducing steps to address environmental impacts and raise awareness on the possible actions that individual staff members can take to be more environmentally conscious. Ms. Naanda went on to state, “We can all do something and we all ought to do something.”
The prevailing message of the discussion was that everyone needed to educate themselves and follow up on their actions. As part of the “Greening the Blue” initiative, everyone should aspire to be “Greening Champions” lead by example, showing others how we can work collaboratively to create more eco-friendly working environments. The UN Namibia family is endeavouring to create a more mindful and sustainable office environment and calls upon its partners to join hands and emulate similar programs in the work place.