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More than 1,000 United Nations Employees Calls for Global Body to Reduce its Carbon Footprint

The United Nations calls climate change the "defining issue of our time" and is hosting a New York summit on it next week

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United Nations, Employees, Global Body
Thousands of protesters, many of them school students, gather in Sydney, Sept. 20, 2019, calling for action against climate change. VOA

More than 1,000 United Nations employees have called for the global body to reduce its carbon footprint, including through curbs on their own diplomatic perks like business-class flights and travel handouts, a letter obtained by Reuters showed.

The United Nations calls climate change the “defining issue of our time” and is hosting a New York summit on it next week.

But reformers within say in the letter addressed to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that it needs more radical change to get its own house in order.

“Our commitments need to be more ambitious and at least as concrete as those of the UN Member States and non-party stakeholders attending the UN Climate Action Summit,” said the letter, signed by more than 1,000 employees. It was organized by a group called Young UN, an internal network committed to ensuring the organization embodies the principles it stands for.

United Nations, Employees, Global Body
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg testifies at a Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on “Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis,” on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019. VOA

“As Greta Thunberg just sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and young people across the world continue to strike every Friday, let us look at our own impact and take bold steps to address the climate emergency,” the letter said, referring to the Swedish teenager who has inspired global climate strikes.

The United Nations, a 75-year-old institution employing 44,000 people in more than 60 countries, emitted 1.86 million tones of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, its own data show.

That equates to a carbon footprint larger than several of its member states, including Malta and Liberia, according to statistics from the Global Carbon Atlas for the same period.

Among 10 issues identified by Young UN are travel allowances, which the letter said needed to be cut or scrapped “in order to disincentivize travel by UN employees and UN meeting participants motivated by financial gain”.

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Allowances, or per diem as they are known internally, are intended to cover travel costs including food and accommodation, and can exceed $400 a day for some locations such as New York, according to the International Civil Service Commission website.

The letter also suggested that staff should be rewarded for downgrading from business class, where a spacious seat generates several times the emissions of an economy class ticket.

Travel accounts for nearly half the United Nations’ emissions, its data show. Last year, under pressure from member states, the head of the U.N. Environment Program, Erik Solheim, stepped down amid criticism of his travels. Other reforms recommended in the letter include a complete divestment of the more than $60 billion U.N. pension fund from fossil fuels and creating offices run entirely on renewable energy. Young UN did not respond to requests for comment.

‘UN needs to lead’

United Nations, Employees, Global Body
More than 1,000 United Nations employees have called for the global body to reduce its carbon footprint, including through curbs on their own diplomatic perks. Pixabay

Guterres is seeking to combat climate change from within in order to boost sustainability. A spokesman for his office was not immediately available for comment.

The letter welcomed Guterres’ internal strategy but said it “misses the urgency of the crisis we are facing” The United Nations has also launched a “Greening the Blue” initiative which measures the U.N. system’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal, fresh-water use, and environmental management. According to its latest report, 43 of its entities or just over a third were carbon-neutral in 2017.

But the letter raises doubts about U.N. offset mechanisms, a method that works through purchases of U.N.-certified carbon credits from approved green projects and is widely used by organizations and businesses to tout their green credentials.

This echoes criticism from NGOs about the contribution of offsets to sustainable development.

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Isabella Marras, Sustainable UN Coordinator, whose team produces the Greening the Blue report and was a signatory to the letter, said she saw scope for the United Nations to give even greater attention to environmental considerations.

“What we are missing is the aggressive integration of environmental issues into our programs like the UN has done for women,” she told Reuters. But she stressed some of the pragmatic challenges in regions where environmental standards are less strong than in Western countries.

Marie-Claire Graf, a 23-year-old Swiss climate activist visiting the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, said the number of U.N. vehicles in vast car parks overlooking the lake and mountains was surprising.

“The UN is doing some amazing things on environment but I am shocked by so many SUVs and the amount of travel,” said Graf, who was selected along with 100 young climate leaders to attend the U.N. Youth Climate Summit on 21 September.

“The UN needs to lead on this transformation.” (VOA)

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Report says, Most Employees Tend to Ignore 40% Emails Daily

For the report, the data was collated from almost 1,000 email accounts of employees from across companies

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Email
The email behaviour at the workplace highlights that a widespread misuse of email has led to unwanted inbox clutter. Pixabay

An average employee receives close to 180 emails every day and does not bother to open 40 per cent of those and even if he or she manages to open some, the reply rate is just 16 per cent, a new report revealed on Wednesday.

The email behaviour at the workplace highlights that a widespread misuse of email has led to unwanted inbox clutter, according to the email collaboration solution provider Hiver.

“Email clearly remains an essential and popular way of communicating, but there are a number of findings from the Hiver State of Email report that indicates that it is broken and requires a significant rehaul,” said Niraj Rout, co-founder and CEO of Hiver.

For the report, the data was collated from almost 1,000 email accounts of employees from across companies.

Email
An average employee receives close to 180 Email every day and does not bother to open 40 per cent of those. Pixabay

The biggest contributor to the inbox clutter was group emails sent to shared inboxes or distribution lists (such as info@company.com.

The report stated that 51 per cent of people received only group emails.

The report also throws light on irresponsible “Cc’ing” habit which has become a standard in virtually every email, for reasons ranging from keeping people updated on specific projects to account for their work with their managers.

Another major contributor to the inbox clutter situation was the unnecessary and excessive forwarding of emails.

Thirteen per cent of the total emails that employees receive were forwarded to them.

Email
Email clearly remains an essential and popular way of communicating. Pixabay

Of the emails forwarded to people, employees open 70 per cent of them but reply to only 20 per cent and of the group emails. employees open 57 per cent of them, but reply to only 14 per cent.

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“The low response and read rates for Cc and forwarded emails demonstrate that while people want to use email as a collaboration tool, it was clearly not designed for it,” Rout said. (IANS)