How UN Peacekeeping Operations Save Money by Thinking Green

Reducing the environmental impacts of UN Peacekeeping operations not only benefits the environment, but saves money, according to a report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP). There are 16 missions currently being led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), with 121,591 personnel. The personnel and their supporting infrastructure, the report points out, put stress on the local environment, including natural resources.

Peacekeeping operations make up the largest part of the environmental footprint of the UN, representing over 56 percent of the UN system’s total climate footprint. Peacekeeping operations produce about 1.75 million tons of carbon equivalent a year, about the same size as the climate footprint of London. In 2009 the DPKO and the Department of Field Support (DFS) adopted an Environmental Policy for UN Field Missions which requires each mission to adopt environmental objectives and control measures. The Environmental Policy focuses on water, energy, waste, wastewater, wildlife and the management of cultural and historical sites.

Ways that peacekeeping missions can conserve water, fuel and energy:

Water is something that is used in great quantities by peacekeeping missions. The DFS estimates water use at 84 liters per person per day. Over a year, a peacekeeping operation of 15,000 personnel would consume 459,900,000 liters. Water requirements are usually met through local water supplies, municipal services or by importation. Conservation measures by personnel and low-technology water-efficient equipment “are the easiest and most proven ways to reduce water use,” according to the report. However, water-efficient equipment has only been used at a limited number of peacekeeping missions. Although the water-efficient equipment is available through the UN procurement system, lack of awareness and operational training are the reasons they are not used much.

Fuel is a big part of the budget for peacekeeping missions. Gasoline and diesel fuel are used “almost exclusively” for generators. Factor in the 17,000 vehicle fleet used by peacekeeping operations and jet fuel, and you can understand why fuel is a big part of the budget. The annual cost of fuel for DPKO-DFS supported base operations was $638 million in 2009. The annual DPKO aircraft fuel costs were estimated at $201 million in 2010. A 2010 report on UN fuel conservation and efficiency found that there are no incentives in place for efficiency in aviation, vehicles and power generation.

As far as energy generation is concerned, the report suggests that a “range of renewable systems can replace or augment diesel generators with long-term fuel savings and environmental benefits.” The DFS has established a contract for photovoltaic (PV)-diesel hybrid power systems and solar thermal panels for ablution units. There are several missions that use PV solar units on a limited scale.

Photo credits: Flickr user, Sudan Envoy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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