World Agroforestry Centre HQ certified CarbonNeutral®

Writer: 
Kristi Foster & Daisy Ouya

As of January 2013, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya is officially carbon neutral. The Nairobi base was certified by The CarbonNeutral Company as a CarbonNeutral® office, setting an example that it hopes other offices and institutions will follow in addressing the challenge of our time – climate change.

Prior to offsetting its emissions, ICRAF Headquarters published a detailed account of its 2011 carbon footprint. The findings of this assessment, the first in the Centre's history, are already informing actions to reduce carbon emissions at the headquarters, with the ultimate goal of achieving carbon-neutrality for its operations around the globe.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from operations at ICRAF’s headquarters totaled 2,611 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) for 2011. The biggest contributor to these emissions was official staff travel by air and road, followed by hotel stays, electricity consumption and individual commuting. “These proportions aren’t unexpected, but quantifying them is important in terms of the Centre’s next steps towards becoming a carbon-neutral institution,” says Audrey Chenevoy, the consultant with ICRAF’s Climate Change Unit responsible for carrying out the organization’s carbon footprint assessment.

This past December, ICRAF headquarters bought carbon credits to offset its GHG emissions for the next two years, though an institution called The CarbonNeutral Company.  The credits belong to the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya, which protects over 500,000 acres of forest, safeguards the highly threatened wildlife migration corridor between two of Kenya’s largest national parks, and brings diverse benefits to surrounding rural communities. The project, run by Wildlife Works, is the world’s first REDD project to be validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and holds Gold Level status under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB). The latter recognizes the exceptional environmental and social benefits the project provides – including job creation, education, and the provision of direct financial benefits from carbon to over 100,000 local people.

According to ICRAF Director General Tony Simons, the Nairobi office will aim to remain carbon neutral and assess its carbon footprint annually, making the results available on the website. ICRAF has recently extended the assessment process to its regional offices, with the goal of becoming a CarbonNeutral® Institution. This initiative is an opportunity for the Centre to take responsibility for its own emissions and demonstrate—to partners, funders and the public—its strong commitment to sustainable practices. He adds that it is an opportunity for the World Agroforestry Centre to “walk the talk”.

ICRAF headquarters is already implementing actions to reduce its carbon footprint over the long term, which will be especially important in balancing emissions as the organization grows. The Nairobi office has developed a new recycling system and switched, wherever possible, to energy-saving lighting. Plans to update the video conferencing system to increase collaboration over the internet and cut down on travel are underway. And further actions towards carbon-neutrality, including purchasing carbon credits, are being introduced.

“Climate change affects everyone – from rural smallholder farmers to urban dwellers,” explains Chenevoy. “We all have to do our part to keep emissions to the minimum, at the individual, community and institutional level.”

Henry Neufeldt, head of ICRAF’s Climate Change Unit and leader of the carbon footprint initiative, points out that ICRAF was the first CGIAR centre to rigorously assess its carbon emissions. “ICRAF has taken some ground-breaking steps this past year, but a lot of work lies ahead if we want to be truly sustainable. As an organization at the leading edge of climate-change adaptation and mitigation research in agriculture, achieving carbon neutrality represents not only a challenge, but also an opportunity for ICRAF to demonstrate its credibility as a 21st century partner. We hope the example we’re setting will encourage other organizations do the same,” he said.

The carbon footprint assessment was funded by ICRAF and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Read more about ICRAF Headquarters' Carbon Footprint and Certification.