Statement by Achim Steiner to the Universal Postal Union's 24th Universal Post Congress

Theme: The Postal Sector, an essential component of the global economy.

Your Intervention:The Environment and the Postal Sector

Geneva, 25 July 2008-Every generation has its challenges. The challenge for this one is the environment. Almost every dial on the sustainability indicator chart is pointing in the wrong direction.

Limits are being reached and breeched, whether it be fish stocks; land degradation; deforestation in Africa; the price of oil or the price of wheat or the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Why should all this matter to the world's postal services?

It matters because postal services are one the one hand a global business and on the other hand a social, local good.

You are big bulk buyers of commodities like oil and paper and local purchasers of computer systems to paper clips.

You are also in the community providing goods and services-from processing road tax applications to offering internet access-for villages, towns and cities.

Your workers often have a direct and in many ways unique relationship with the public at the level of the household and the high street post office counter.

You also interface with the rich and the poor and the ethnic minorities.

Post men and women and the world's postal services are thus in many ways quite special, operating at the level of the global but also right at the grassroots.

Thus you are not only operations able to influence markets and economies big and small.

You have the position of role model within communities. And with that perhaps comes responsibilities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Businesses and services in the 21st century will be defined on how rapidly they implement measures and strategies to buffet them from the quite dramatic winds of change sweeping our world.

But also how fast they recognize and adapt to the equally abundant opportunities unfolding-opportunities to transform the way we manage the nature and natural resources that underpin most if not all economic activity.

Opportunities to shape urban living from transport networks; renewable energies and energy efficient buildings and waste management to air quality and social inclusion.

Opportunities to empower society to join in this transition to a Green Economy-perhaps a more easily digestible term for the more familiar concept of sustainable development.

Individual postal services are starting to rise to the challenge. In terms of transport, La Poste in France aims to have 10,000 of its 60,000 vehicle fleet electric by 2012.

Australia Post is testing hybrid trucks and TNT in the Netherlands is working with UNEP on a Driving Clean initiative.

In China, and in support of the Beijing Olympics, postal service vehicles there will meet Euro IV emissions standards before the starting pistol fires.

This is a good start. But the potential is far larger given the environmental footprint and the opportunity to tread far more lightly.

With some 660,000 postal establishments; 250,000 motorcycles; over 600,000 cars, vans and trucks and hundreds of aircraft; the opportunity to influence energy-significant industries and green the procurement; manufacturing and marketing chains-from automobile and aero-engine manufacturers to those that produce appliances; inks; adhesives and paper-is huge.

With five million-perhaps as many as 10 million-employees, postal service employ more than the oil and gas industry (2.3 million).

So in this 60th anniversary year of UPU, I am delighted that Edouard Dayan and I have signed an agreement to first assess the climate footprint of the world's postal services.

And then offer the UPU's 191 member states a range of solutions to shrink that footprint.

It is part of a wider initiative by the UN, under the guidance of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to transform the institution into a climate neutral one.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have another proposal which I would be keen to discuss with you that also plays to the postal services' strengths and the need to catalyze public awareness on climate change.

In late 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark member states will gather under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to agree on a new, global regime.

One that truly echoes to the challenge of stabilizing emissions to avert nothing less than disaster.

One that unleashes market forces and human ingenuity. And one that ensures financial flows to vulnerable societies to adapt to the climate change already underway.

We had the power of science-we had the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-presenting us with the indisputable facts in 2007.

This made the climate convention agreement in Bali last year possible. But we do not have the same lever available over the next 17 months.

Governments, instead of putting a first class stamp or an overnight delivery sticker on their ambitions for Copenhagen, are at best able to go for second class at this point in the negotiations.

And some have not got as far as even writing their climate commitment letters, let alone purchasing the envelopes or the stamps.

In short, Copenhagen could prove to be less a red letter day and more a notice of foreclosure on the sustainable development needs of nearly seven billion people.

Galvanizing local authorities, businesses and the public, in order to focus and empower the minds of politicians, thus must be part of the response and now.

Can the postal services help? The UN will soon be producing a system-wide campaign including a logo and slogans to focus public awareness on the extraordinary and historic challenge we face less than 500 days from today in Copenhagen.

Your reach is enormous-more than 430 billion letters, parcels and the like delivered domestically and annually alongside some 5.5 billion international items and over six billion ordinary parcels.

If only a fraction of these carried the new UN climate logo during 2009, what an impact this could have in terms of reaching the public on the issue of our age.

National postal services often carry environmental themes via special edition stamps and first day covers.

How about a series on climate change from your unique national perspective-the threats, but also the opportunities from the melting away of glacier and sea level rise to the potential for renewable energy such as wind, wave and geothermal.

This is not a pipedream. UNEP has just partnered with La Poste in France on just such a product-a book of stamps featuring sustainable development issues that also double up as a pocket information guide.

I better leave it there except to say that a global partnership with postal services on the climate change challenge would not be difficult to initiate.

UNEP already works with the International Olympic Committee and Olympic movement on greening the games.

Also with a growing number of countries; cities and companies-now even international music festivals-on our Climate Neutral Network ( to mention but two examples that have broken new ground.

I hope you can tell from my remarks that I prize this new partnership with the UPU and the postal services of the world for its potential for transformation-transformation to accelerate the 'delivery' to the doorsteps of homes and businesses everywhere of tomorrow's economy, today.


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