6 June 2011
The Recycling Labyrinth – A Path towards a Greener Future
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
“The Recycling Labyrinth – A Path towards a Greener Future”
Palais des Nations, Bar Serpent, E Building, Door 40
Monday, 6 June 2011 at 18:00
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a pleasure to welcome you all for this exhibition. I particularly thank the Permanent Mission of the United States of America for organizing this special event. I also thank the artist, Ms. Mona Nicole Sfeir for her valuable contribution. This art installation, made from discarded plastic bottles, highlights the problem of waste and the importance of recycling. This is an essential message in the context of World Environment Day, which was celebrated yesterday.
Reducing our impact on the environment is the responsibility of both organizations and individuals. For the United Nations Office at Geneva, this is one of our top priorities. Over the past ten years, we have cut electricity, fuel and water consumption. This has resulted in impressive reductions in CO2 emissions. It has been achieved through a combination of institutional measures, partnerships with the host country and civil society, and a transformation of work processes. Creativity and a readiness to embrace change have been critical.
As a major service provider for the United Nations family, the United Nations Office at Geneva has taken the lead in incorporating an environmental dimension in all procedures and practices. Recycling is especially important as it limits the use of natural resources, saves energy and reduces emissions of greenhouse gases. Together this helps to tackle climate change.
Despite our achievements, we still face constraints in meeting modern emissions and energy efficiency standards due to the age of the Palais des Nations. This is why we are working with Member States to implement a Strategic Heritage Plan for its renovation. This is a key priority for me as Director-General.
Reducing consumption and waste requires a personal commitment. As Director-General, I have instructed all staff at the United Nations Office at Geneva to work towards an initial reduction in paper use and distribution by 20% by the end of the year. I have encouraged them to come forward with ideas on how to achieve this goal. This is all the more timely as we celebrate in 2011 the International Year of Forests. This month, staff are also participating in the Swiss nationwide Bike to Work initiative. This project is another way to encourage the reduction of our individual carbon footprint on a daily basis.
Small gestures at the individual level can make a substantial difference over time.
I have no doubt that this creative exhibition will serve as a call to all of us to strengthen our efforts to take practical steps to enhance sustainability.
One by one, we can make a difference.
Thank you for your attention.