Greening the Blue Report 2021 reveals impacts of COVID-19 on UN system’s environmental footprint

Greening the Blue Report 2021 reveals impacts of COVID-19 on UN system’s environmental footprint

Greening the Blue Report 2021 - The UN system’s environmental footprint and efforts to reduce it, is the first edition to reveal impacts on the UN system’s environmental footprint due to COVID-19. The annual report provides UN system-wide data on the environmental impact areas and management functions identified in the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations System 2020-2030, Phase I: Environmental Sustainability in the Area of Management. The 2021 edition of the Report, which provides 2020 data, was launched on Monday 8 November. The full Report and UN entity-specific data are available online at

The Report focuses on the environmental impacts of over 315,000 personnel in Headquarters, field offices and operations on the ground. Data from 56 UN system entities is included in the Report. Highlights include:

Greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting

With significant worldwide travel restrictions and large portions of UN personnel working from home, the UN system generated approximately 25 per cent fewer GHG emissions than in 2019. The steep reduction in GHG emissions reflects the sudden and dramatic adaptations in operations that had to be made throughout 2020, as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the UN system produced ~1.5 million tonnes CO2eq, with per capita emissions of 5 tonnes CO2eq. The UN system’s emission by source were 32% from air travel, 55% from facilities, and 12% from other forms of travel. Of the reported 2020 emissions 99% were offset.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on many entities’ a radical change in work and travel patterns. This has however also highlighted the opportunity the UN system has to revisit its working and travel modalities and come closer to the ambitious emissions reductions’ targets that it has set for itself for 2030.

BRS performance

In 2020, the BRS Secretariat, through its operations and facilities, emitted 53 tCO2eq in total or 0.76 tCO2eq per capita – much lower the UN average. When breaking down emissions by source, 74% came from air travel and the remaining 26% came from our facilities.

The Secretariat is also pleased to announce its climate neutrality for the 8th year in a row, meaning that it offsets 100% of its greenhouse gas emissions.

For further details, please visit Greening the Blue where you will find more information relating to activities at the UN system level as well as in the BRS Secretariat. Please also consult the Secretariat’s sustainability webpage.

More information

For more information on the methodologies and data collection used, and for the full Greening the Blue report 2021 please visit the Greening the Blue website.

For more information on the methodology related to travel emissions provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation please visit the ICAO website.

For information on climate neutrality, please visit the UNFCCC website.

For more information, please contact:

UN Environment Programme