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The UN in Iraq Goes Green: Taking a trip with the ‘Renewable Energy Travelling Roadshow’

Posted: Wednesday, 8 May 2013, Baghdad | Author: United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq

The latest installation at the UN compound in Baghdad is big, blue, and rather pungent. It is also the first step towards a greener and more sustainable UN in Iraq. The large contraption sits in the garden under the trees. It is a biodigestor, a simple but highly effective container that processes manure and kitchen waste to produce organic fertilizer and biogas for cooking. 

With the inauguration of the biodigestor on 18 April, the UN made a firm commitment to going even greener, a commitment that fits with the Organization’s global goal to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Our footprint should be as light as possible,” said Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Ms. Jacqueline Badcock. “By greening our own backyard we hope to improve the UN’s engagement with the environment and work towards a greener Iraq.”

As part of this strategy, the UN in Iraq went on a ‘Renewable Energy Travelling Roadshow’ from 13-22 April. Sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy of the United States of America, in collaboration with the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology, and Baghdad University of Technology, the roadshow brought world-renowned Iraqi-Irish National Geographic explorer and renewable energy expert, Dr Taha Rasamm Culhane, to town.

“Iraq should never have to go without electricity, light or energy for cooking and heating,” Dr. Culhane told his audiences. Not only did he help the UN to build its biodigestor. He also took his bag of tricks around the country, sharing his expertise and showcasing his selection of environmental innovations at the Ministry of Science and Technology, Baghdad University of Technology, Salahuddin University, various Iraqi ministries in Baghdad, the Kurdistan Region, and Kirkuk.

The partnership between the UN and the U.S. Embassy aims to bolster technical capacity so that Iraqis can better tackle environmental concerns and promote renewable energy solutions with community-based environmental technologies. Dr. Culhane’s Iraq visit was the first phase of a larger UN initiative to partner with the Government of Iraq, local councils, universities and civil society to develop a green economy, and establish green neighbourhoods where simple solutions for renewable energy, waste disposal and organic gardening promise to transform the streets, and people’s lives.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler summed up the UN’s environmental aims in his speech to Iraqi Government officials and the diplomatic community on 17 April. “Greening the UN is so important,” he said. “Greening Iraq is even more important.”

The roadshow might be over, but the work to green Iraq is just beginning.