“Look at that,” our technical engineer said, standing proudly on the roof of the Damascus Country Office building, surveying the newly installed solar collectors. “Now we’re feeding the national grid!”
The climate crisis is gradually worsening. As a crisis country with 13.4 million people in need, and 90% of the population considered poor, Syria is hit harder by its consequences. However, we cannot allow that to deter us from making a difference. We simply cannot afford to. In order to see a change, we realize that we must be the example. This is why in 2020, a motivated group of staff formed a ‘Green Team’ and launched a series of initiatives as part of a commitment to making UNDP Syria’s operations greener. With a $50,000 USD grant from the RBAS Greening the Blue Moonshot, the renewable energy pilot project was finally inaugurated in the Country Office.
Electricity cuts have hit hard across Syria, with the inconsistent power supply leading to increasingly disrupted working hours. In an already dynamic and uncertain environment like Syria, this was only adding to the depleting morale and stress on staff. Generators became the obvious solution. However, what with fuel shortages, this became an economic burden, not to mention the steep environmental cost of burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.
UNDP Syria installed 72 solar collectors in its Damascus Country Office, generating 51,000 kilowatt hour (kWh) per year and heating 600 Liter of water daily. By shifting from non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy sources, we are able save 6,375 Liter of fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide by 16,830 Kilograms annually.
A fantastic bonus? The solar system feeds the national grid during holidays and weekends, when power usage in the office is at its lowest.
Sustainable consumption is a centrepiece of SDG 12, yet we know that change comes only if each and every one of us believes in making a conscious decision to do better. This is why we launched an awareness campaign to enforce the importance of reducing waste. A ‘paperless’ policy was instated, encouraging the use of e-signatures and drastically decreasing the load on printing by 21% in the first year alone!
An internal recycling campaign to reduce and reuse plastic and paper waste was also initiated to encourage all UNDP staff to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly habits. With the same mindset, we distributed aluminium bottles to all UNDP staff encouraging them to banish the use of plastic bottles.
This is just the start. As we measure the positive impact that these initiatives have had, we are motivated to do much more. In the coming years, we are planning to expand these initiatives to all our offices across Syria, and to inspire sister UN agencies to follow suit. By setting this example, we hope to inspire others to follow these footsteps, contributing to the global goal of a greener Restored Earth!
Written by Lynn Hafi, Partnerships Associate, UNDP Syria