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Green Financing Facility

The challenge: The high carbon footprint of responding to refugee needs globally.

UNHCR is a global organization and its operations are designed to deliver a global response. But the infrastructure that supports them, including around 545 offices, leaves a large environmental footprint.

UNHCR’s mission to serve 117.3 million forcibly displaced and stateless people as well as their host communities often means working in areas without a stable grid connection and with high-security needs, making the use of fossil fuels a practical necessity. As a result, UNHCR’s operations generate annual emissions of 54,940 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2eq), chiefly generated by office infrastructure, followed by the vehicle fleet and air travel.

The vision: A green UNHCR

Despite the challenge of operating in the most remote areas of the world, UNHCR’s vision is to become the leading humanitarian agency in environmental sustainability.

Within the next 10 years, UNHCR aims to transform its infrastructure, along with fleet and travel, to minimize its environmental footprint and enable green solutions, while continuing to adhere to the highest standards of refugee protection and response.

UNHCR is also working to reduce the environmental footprint of the people it serves, under the Global Strategy for Sustainable Energy 2019-2024.

As infrastructure is the main contributor to UNHCR’s environmental footprint, a key focus is to convert offices run on diesel generators and fossil fuel heavy energy grids to solar energy.

A graph showing the costs of the Green Utility Model. 
Text reads: Traditional pure grant solar models (all UNHCR investment) vs. Guarantee-based model - UNHCR sets aside 40 per cent to unlock private sector investment. (Part UNHCR investment, part private sector investment.
For larger offices (Green Utility Model)

Guarantee mechanism to back private sector contracts. By utilizing a guarantee-based mechanism, UNHCR is 60 per cent more efficient in usage of donor funding than traditional pure grant-based models.

A graphic of coins surrounded by a circle of arrows to demonstrate re-investment cycle. Text reads (1) Investment in solarization in initial offices. 2. Savings captured from lower energy costs. (3) Re-investment to green additional offices.
For smaller offices (Green Ownership Model)

UNHCR is creating a self-sustaining revolving fund model where savings from greening are re-invested.

Key impact areas

Rohingya children sit beneath a solar lantern.
1. Financial sustainability and stability

UNHCR will be able to capture cost savings from solarization – i.e., for some sites, switching to solar will have a positive financial impact and reset UNHCR's energy costs to a permanently lower level. These savings will be reinvested in UNHCR's budget and substantially redirected towards direct refugee and host community programming.

2. Improved environment and infrastructure

This project will create long-term, durable, clean infrastructure in areas with some of the highest infrastructure and energy deficiencies in the world, replacing short-term and polluting diesel generators historically favored by humanitarian operations with lasting clean energy solutions. In most cases the new green infrastructure can also be passed to local governments after UNHCR ceases operations in the location.

Solar panels
3. Local market development

UNHCR will issue millions of dollars of viable private sector contracts through competitive procurement for solar power plants in places that typically do not have viable business cases for clean energy. In this way, UNHCR facilitates development of the clean energy sector, including the secondary effect of creating 'green jobs' in the local area, by becoming the foundational anchor client in locations where currently private sector hesitates to invest.

Ethiopia. Sabriina thinks solar is the future
4. Local industries and skills

By creating commercial opportunities that require jobs in refugee areas (such as operations and maintenance of community infrastructure and solar systems), UNHCR will incentivize private sector companies to employ local people in refugee areas. Experience to date has demonstrated that these procurements will be impactful in creating business opportunities for companies from developing countries and not just international companies.

The need

Kickstarting UNHCR’s green transformation requires a $60 million Green Investment to switch all offices to primarily renewable energy by 2030.

This one-time Green Investment will be managed by the Green Financing Facility as a long-term capital fund that will finance all future greening needs.

We estimate to solarize the top 20 most emitting offices, accounting for 20 per cent of UNHCR’s infrastructure emissions, we will need an investment of $10.5 million, of which there is a current funding gap of $6.3 million.

To cover the remainder of UNHCR’s greening needs a further $49 million is required of which $41 million remains unfunded.

This once off investment will support around $115 million of green capital expenditure over 10 years. Over 20 years, the same capital continues to work, supporting $150 million of renewable energy assets without the need for additional donor funding.


For more information, or to support the facility please contact:

Dominic Grace
Head of Global Mobility & Infrastructure: [email protected]

Renalda Ludvika
Innovative Financing Funding Officer: [email protected]

Greening and Sustainability Team: [email protected]

A group of about 15 people wearing blue UNHCR vests smile for the camera