The United Nations is going green. The secretary-general has announced a new initiative to help lower the U.N.'s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer reports thermostats will rise during the month of August.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made curbing the effects of global climate change one of his top priorities. Now, he says, the world body must lead by example.
Starting Friday, the U.N. will raise thermostats by three degrees Celsius to 25 degrees in most parts of the huge headquarters complex. Conference rooms will be slightly cooler.
The U.N. is currently undergoing a multi-year renovation of its 39 floors. Michael Adlerstein is the executive director of that project. He says the new climate change initiative, known as Cool UN!, will both help the environment and save money.
"The Cool UN! campaign will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and even save some expenses here at headquarters," he said. "It is a practical action that will also raise the awareness of staff and of the U.N. missions in New York of climate change and our need to take action."
During the August trial period, Adlerstein says he expects the U.N. will save about $100,000 on its air conditioning bill. The benefits will also include cutting large amounts of carbon dioxide that would have been released into the atmosphere.
August temperatures in New York City average around 28 degrees - cooling the enthusiasm of some U.N. staffers to the project. Edna says she thinks it is important to save energy, but says it is already too hot in some offices.
"I think it's worth it to help the environment," she said. "But also, there are a lot of things you can do to help the environment - shades on the windows, be more careful turning off the computers, things like that to save energy. But we cannot concentrate with the heat inside the offices."
If the initiative is successful during August, the program will continue year round, with thermostats being lowered about three degrees throughout the complex during winter.
Adlerstein says over the course of a year, the initiative could save $1 million on energy costs in addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The United Nations is encouraging employees to relax their dress code to cope with rising thermostats. Even the secretary-general has said he will be wearing lighter clothes this summer.