Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya. I am back to my small desk in Westlands, for those who like scheduling holidays and travel, you will agree with me that there is the beginning and the end. And the end is always filled with memories and both good and bad experiences. In case you are wondering, you are not alone. To bring myself to speed being back, I took a tour that was pending – visiting the United Nations Office at Nairobi. I am not new to this place but I hoped that this tour will be an educational one for my future of 2017.
The main point of interest for me then became the environment. The office sits on a hundred and forty six acres of land donated by the government of Kenya. It neighbours Karura forest and the United States Embassy. Its surrounded by the love of trees, fresh air, birds and water. If that would be the requirement for a healthy working space, I would say, UNON have succeeded. The environment created to encourage living and working in a clean, renewable and sustainable. My ‘icing on the cake’ of the tour was the United Nation Environmental Programme office, which also houses the UNHABITAT. While every other new building in town prides itself on being the latest to add green features, it is only prudent to find out how UNEP’s own headquarters in Nairobi have been designed as a model for other buildings.
What strikes you upon entering the new offices in Gigiri are the airy walkways full of plants, coupled with natural lighting coming down through the central atrium that runs the entire length of the building. This is made possible due to the building’s North-South orientation that not only helps it achieve maximum light intake but also mitigates against solar gain. About 6,000 square metres of solar panels that cover the rooftop are able to generate enough energy for the building’s 1,200 users. The water features at the entrance of each block are fed by harvested rainwater from the roof. Excess waste water is treated at an on-site aeration facility that is then used to maintain the expansive gardens. “This building is beautiful, comfortable and efficient. But more than any of that, this building is a living model of our sustainable future,” were the words of Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary General, on the official opening of the building.
Countries all around the world are powering towards a low-carbon future by embracing solar, wind and geothermal energy. Thanks to its unique geography and commitment to environmental preservation, small but mighty Costa Rica meets a huge amount of its energy needs (99% in 2015!) using hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and other low-carbon sources. Next on the horizon: Costa Rica aims to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2021.
Nicaragua saw renewables comprise up to 54% of all electricity production in June 2015. How’d they do it? In 2007, the then-president began emphasizing renewable energy investments. By 2012, Nicaragua invested the fifth-highest percentage worldwide of its GDP in developing renewable energy. Next on the to-do list: The country is aiming for 90% renewables by 2020, with the majority of energy coming from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.
Over the years, the UN have turned their working space to be clean and sustainable with the GREEN ONE UN House being an important component of the UN’s climate change advocacy. Professor Wangari Maathai said “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now”.