The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has announced plans to develop a new environmental sustainability program as part of the UPU 2021-2024 Strategy.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has announced plans to develop a new environmental sustainability program as part of the UPU 2021-2024 Strategy. The program will include the development and implementation of the necessary internal strategy documents and routines required to make the UPU International Bureau (IB) compliant with the UN 2020-2030 Strategy for Sustainability Management.

The news comes as the UN’s Greening the Blue 2020 report is released, which is coordinated by Sustainable United Nations (SUN) and documents the UN system’s environmental footprint in 2019 and the efforts being made to reduce it.

The 2020 Greening the Blue report has been developed in line with the UN 2020-2030 Strategy for Sustainability Management, which intends to accelerate the UN System’s corporate efforts to combat climate change. In particular, UN entities are committed to reducing their environmental impacts via targeted actions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste management, air and water pollution, and biodiversity degradation.
In 2019, the UPU once again achieved carbon neutral status.

Throughout the year the IB emitted 1,482 tCO2eq in total or 5,39 tCO2eq per staff member, which is below the UN average. 74% of the IB’s greenhouse gas emissions came from air travel, 25% came from facilities, and the remaining 1% originated from non-air travel. Lovisa Selander, sustainability consultant to the UPU, said, “The report covers the IB, which is the UPU headquarters in Bern, Switzerland, and its staff. We look at the emissions produced from the heating of the building, water consumption, waste generation, and staff travel – the latter of which is the biggest emissions generator for us.”

With a new UPU environmental sustainability program, the IB will move from just looking at monitoring and reducing emissions to developing a “fully fledged sustainability strategy,” notes Selander. “It will incorporate the work involved in ensuring the UPU is compliant with the UN 2020-2030 Strategy for Sustainability Management, such as the development of an environmental management system and biodiversity,” she adds.
UPU’s program manager for sustainable development, Susan Alexander, continues, “The specific details of the new UPU environmental sustainability program will be decided at Congress in August 2021. Once we develop an IB-wide strategy, we will then look at our current environmental status and set targets from this.”
The UPU has already worked hard on reducing its environmental impact. In 2019, for example, the IB implemented a new pilot recycling program and has explored ways to further reduce paper use. “The organization has also opted for renewable energy through the procurement of 100 per cent hydropower electricity, with green certificate,” adds Selander. “The IB building was renovated a few years ago, including installing new windows and a new façade, which cut down on our emissions from heating.”

In 2019 the UPU’s greenhouse gas emissions were offset in full through the purchase of 1,482 Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) from the Adaptation Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “This is a fund which channels money toward projects in developing countries,” explains Selander. “It is a mechanism to even out economic differences.”

Training has also been provided to staff on how to utilize video conferencing equipment and webcasting tools to try and reduce air travel emissions. “Staff applying for air travel, must also declare whether video conferencing was considered for the meeting requested and, if it was not adopted, explain why,” adds Selander.

Alexander believes that as a result of Covid-19, there will be a natural shift toward more meetings taking place virtually, which will lead to emissions reductions. “People have experienced how efficient video conference calls can be for meetings,” she says. “Behavior has changed and people are now used to carrying out meetings remotely. I expect that UPU staff will be encouraged to carry on in this way where possible as a means to cutting our emissions further.”

About Greening the Blue
The annual Greening the Blue report focuses on the environmental impacts of over 310,000 UN personnel in headquarters, field offices and operations on the ground. In 2019, the UN system produced ~2 million tonnes CO2eq, with per capita emissions of 6.5 tonnes CO2eq, continuing its downward trend (as a comparison, in 2010 the UN System reported per capita emissions of 8.3 tonnes CO2eq). With 97 per cent of reported 2019 emissions offset, the UN System is well on track to achieve its goal of 100 per cent climate neutrality by 2020.