After implementing comprehensive ‘greening’ measures, including energy efficiency upgrades, and switching to 100 per cent renewable electricity, the Vienna International Centre (VIC), one of the largest United Nations compounds, has become climate neutral.
“A wide range of measures to improve the environmental performance of the VIC have been implemented over the years. In particular, substantive energy-efficiency upgrades have been made, such as the replacement of façade windows glazing, the installation of energy-efficient lighting and lighting sensors, new elevators motors and improvement in the air conditioning systems,” says Diego Masera, Chief of the Buildings Management Services Division, which is responsible for the safe and reliable operation, maintenance, improvements, repairs and replacements in the VIC.
Just in the last three years, the VIC has reduced its carbon emissions by 56 per cent. This reduction of 5,300 tons of CO2e annually is equivalent to taking over 1,100 passenger cars off the streets. Today the Vienna International Centre demonstrates a very good energy performance of 177kWh/m² per year, which is lower than the average energy intensity of non-residential buildings in Austria.
“I am glad that our achievement comes shortly after the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement on combatting climate change. Full climate neutrality has been attained by off-setting a small balance of greenhouse gas emissions through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Offsetting is a UN-recommended approach. It allows us to take responsibility for an environmental footprint in the short run, while continuing to minimize the gross footprint as much as possible. We are proud of the results achieved so far, but there is more work to be done. So we will work closely together to further green the blue,” says Masera, referring to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Greening the blue” initiative.
The initiative set a deadline for all UN agencies to achieve a system-wide net-zero climate footprint by 2020.
The VIC is home to the following entities: the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); the International Energy Agency (IAEA); the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and the UN Office in Vienna (UNOV). It also houses offices of 11 other UN organizations.
The VIC complex consists of offices, conference rooms, common services, and associated technical facilities. It is spread over a ground area of 180,000 m² and has a gross floor area of 380 000 m². In 2015, the VIC accommodated around 4,700 staff and 574,000 visitors, including conference participants, resulting in a daily average occupancy of 7,300 people.
The Buildings Management Service is managed by UNIDO and funded by all VIC-based organizations as a common service of the VIC.
Masera explained that the crucial goal of becoming climate neutral was also achieved with the support of the Government of Austria which contributes to the Major Repairs and Replacement Fund. “It actually happened as of January 2015. The reason we are announcing it only today is because the certification of climate neutrality is done retroactively, once all emissions for a given year have been accounted for and the offsetting process has been concluded. Therefore, today we are proud to announce that we have received the certificate of climate neutrality for 2015 and we have a firm commitment to continue to accomplish the same results in the coming five years,” he said.
On 21 June, an official ceremony will be held at the VIC to celebrate this achievement.
To watch Sebastian Kurz, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration of Austria, congratulatory message, please click here.
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UNIDO Chief of Buildings Management Services division